We learn today that Warwickshire County Council’s Tories have put off any decision on their proposed reduction of the Fire Service indefinitely, by which we understand “until after the General Election.”
For those who have fought these changes tooth and nail, this is a minor victory, but also a major threat: we have demonstrated to councillors that the public will not tolerate the closure of fire stations and sacking of retained fire fighters on such a flimsy, misleading prospectus. The consultation document is thoroughly discredited, and the process with it.
So much for the minor victory. But the threat is that, as soon as the General Election is passed, the proposals will be back, and with vengeance. Bidford, Studley, Fenny Compton and all the others are just as much under threat, and fire fighters face a future which is just as uncertain, but with the prospect of less time between a decision and the fall of the axe.
If anyone believes that this is unlikely, and that we have really won, then they should look at the lesson of this summer. Right up to the County Council elections, councillors including the portfolio holder assured us that there were no plans to cut the services. Immediately after the election, the plans were rolled out. Coincidence? You can believe that if you really want to. Most of us will regret that we feel obliged to doubt.
In the mean time, what should be done?
Everyone who has been involved in the fight needs to keep up the pressure on the local authority. Councillors should continue to receive letters, marches and public meetings should continue to happen. For as long as they believe that public opposition is strong, Tory councillors will be loathe to bring up the issue. The moment that they believe the opposition has subsided, they will push forward with their plans.
We cannot allow that.