01 June 2011
East and West Sussex Fire and Rescue Services are continuing to make positive progress with developing options for closer working, including a possible merger to form a new Service covering the whole of Sussex and the City of Brighton & Hove. The two Services announced plans to examine future options in December 2010, to assess the overall benefits that could be achieved.
Closer working aims to reduce management costs, streamline back office functions, improve operational resilience and also preserve local community services to the public following the Government grant reductions both organisations are having to absorb.
East Sussex Fire Authority and West Sussex County Council have both agreed that the options being considered should be narrowed down to either more formal collaboration between the two Services or a full-scale merger.
The next stage in developing the business case is being completed and its recommendations will be considered in a confidential session by East Sussex Fire Authority at its meeting tomorrow (Thursday June 2nd).
The merger will also be discussed at West Sussex County Council's Community Services Select Committee in June. The decision by Pete Bradbury, the County Council's Cabinet Member for Public Protection, will be made on July 1st. Subject to the outcomes of these decisions, the business case will be made public and a joint announcement will be made shortly afterwards.
If both organisations agree a merger appears to be the best way forward, a twelve-week public consultation period would then take place before any final decisions are taken. Feedback from the consultation would be fully considered before a final decision is made.
A final business case, including all of the outcomes from the public consultation as well as final information on the financial implications, will then be presented to East Sussex Fire Authority and West Sussex County Council at their respective meetings in December.
If agreed, a merger would still be subject to Government approval and would not be able to come into effect before 1st April 2013.