There has been anger after a bid to stop cuts to Sudbury’s fire station was halted by the slimmest of majorities.
Suffolk County Council’s full council voted 36-35 against a motion by opposition Liberal Democrats councillor David Wood to abandon proposed county-wide cuts to the fire service. The cuts are currently being considered in a public consultation exercise.
Sudbury could lose its second fire engine in favour of a rapid response vehicle in the proposed cuts.
A petition calling for the cuts to be dropped, signed by more than 5,000 people, was presented to the meeting held on Thursday.
The motion was seconded by Labour leader Sandy Martin and UKIP, Green and independent councillors had also backed it.
Cllr Martin said: “The county-wide campaign that was involved in collecting the petition represents the true voice of ordinary Suffolk people.
“I am surprised, enraged and bitterly disappointed that the Conservative Group has so brazenly ignored the will of Suffolk’s residents to vote against this.”
Sudbury-based firefighter, Paul Carrington, said “What can I say except that this is a bad day for the fire service. You do not become a firefighter because you like making political noise, but the county’s fire crews are already spread so thin that this doesn’t make sense and it doesn’t make people safer.
“Sudbury station is the most busy on-call station in the county, so downsizing will only make our job more difficult.”
But county council leader Colin Noble said they could not make decisions on the cuts until the results of a recent public consultation were analysed and published.
Cllr Matthew Hicks, cabinet member for public protection, said: “We cannot support the motion out of respect for the people of Suffolk who have had their say in the consultation.”
He added that the fire services had to play its part in helping to meet the budget cuts the county faces.
The fire service budget is to be cut by £1.34 million by April 2018 to cope with a reduction in the county council’s government funding.
However, the Sudbury and Cornard Against Fire Cuts campaign group said it was time the Conservative group on the council “stopped hiding behind the report” on the public consultation.
The group also praised independent councillor for Long Melford Richard Kemp. A statement said: “Richard Kemp gave a passionate speech at (Thursday’s) Full County Council meeting, where Ellen Murphy, member of this group also asked questions to county councillor Matthew Hicks about the Sudbury proposal.
“What a shame it is that Sudbury and Cornard needs outside help to speak up for it.”