Portsmouth Conservative councillor Frank Jonas was voted in as a temporary Deputy Member of the Hampshire Fire & Rescue Authority at today’s Full Council meeting, beating Liberal Democrat Councillor Matthew Winnington, whose nomination was supported by Hampshire Fire Brigades Union (FBU). S&C reproduces FBU Vice Chair, Mark Chapman’s deputation to Full Council below, which highlights the terrifying impact of ongoing public sector cuts on fire-fighters and fire safety. Additional reporting by Sarah Cheverton.
On 19th June, Hampshire Fire Authority wrote to Portsmouth City Council requesting a councillor be nominated to fulfil a new role as Temporary Deputy Member of Hampshire Fire Authority. Following a recent reduction in member numbers on the Authority from 25 to 10 (plus the Police and Crime Commissioner), the introduction of the new Deputy role aims to ensure decision-making is not disrupted when local authority members cannot attend.
Conservative Deputy Leader Cllr Luke Stubbs currently represents Portsmouth City Council on the Authority, and former Mayor, Cllr Frank Jonas was the Conservative nomination for the new role.
Liberal Democrat Cllr Matthew Winnington’s nomination to become Deputy was supported by the Fire Brigade Union, and would have meant cross-party cooperation between Liberal Democrats and Conservatives on the Hampshire Fire & Rescue Authority.
Both Councillors Jonas and Winnington have been actively serving on the Authority prior to the reduction in membership, which sees Portsmouth City Council’s membership reduced from 3 to 1. As a result of the membership reduction, cross party representation on the Authority has been reduced, with Labour now having only 1 member on the Authority.
Ahead of the vote, Cllr Winnington outlined the importance of cross-party representation on the Fire Authority:
You’re getting less parties represented…Any other opposition members, even in a deputy role, will just give that bit more scrutiny and a bit more idea of what’s going on.
It’s a case of being collaborative and doing what’s right for the city.
All Conservative councillors voted against the FBU-supported nomination of Cllr Winnington in favour of Cllr Jonas, who did not speak on the motion.
FBU Vice Chair Mark Chapman’s Deputation
“My Lord Mayor and members of the Council,
My name is Mark Chapman and I speak to you today in my role as Vice Chair of Hampshire Fire Brigades Union.
Firstly I would like to emphasise that The Fire Brigade Union stands to professionally protect and uphold the safety of firefighters and ensure safer communities. I’m sure that no one in the room has missed the recent tragic events that have demonstrated the true value of our national fire service and the bravery of those firefighters who serve our communities.
The recent and tragic Grenfell fire is unfortunately an example of the worst case scenario, one I am sure all hope is not repeated.
That incident, although still being investigated, truly expressed the need for sufficient and appropriate resources that are ready and able to respond when required. A response that is efficient but far more importantly effective and able to operate safely when facing the most diverse and dynamic of challenges.
I want to speak to you about the significant cuts and changes to our Fire Service nationally and our fire authority within Hampshire. Firstly our Fire Service.
It is with regret that I tell Full Council that there are now 11,000 less firefighters serving our communities nationally since 2010 (almost one in five or 19% of frontline firefighter posts slashed). There are now over 139 less fire engines and over 40 less fire stations serving our country.
All over the past 7 years.
Fire control operators have been cut by 25% for the same period and response times are now slower than they were 20 years ago.
Subsequently fire deaths have increased by 15%. This figure does not include the Grenfell Tower fire, a number still untold.
Regressive legislation changes have put critical health and safety risk assessments at the responsibility of property owners.
All of these cuts and changes can be directly attributed to austerity measures and political agenda rather than as a priority to improve our public safety.
Locally Portsmouth’s largest fire station based at Southsea had its budget slashed by £578,736, resulting in 16 less firefighters, smaller fire engines and an aerial ladder platform that can no longer be primary crewed.
Our Fire Authority has been reduced in number, subsequently reducing the populous of Portsmouth’s representation from 3 members to 1.
With such significant changes to the fire response provision, regulation and legislation reform and representation it is now more important than ever that those of influence play their part and ensure the communities they serve are not just adequately but appropriately and professionally represented. The Fire Brigades Union to that end fully support Cllr Matthew Winnington’s nomination to stand as Temporary Deputy Member of Hampshire Fire Authority.
Cllr Winnington was, prior to the reduction, a Portsmouth Fire Authority Member and so has the great footing of experience to build upon. When the risk review within Hampshire took place he met with the fire service and equally was more than happy to meet and work with the Fire Brigades Union.
He has always ensured that he has the facts and a clear understanding before making decisions or reporting back to the community. It is our belief that his contribution to the Authority as a representative of our community would be invaluable and as a nominee he has our full support.
Thank you for listening.
Main image, Hampshire Fire and Rescue Authority logo, screenshot from HFRA website.