Lord Mayor of Portsmouth vetoes special meeting over proposed Hampshire fire service cuts

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From left to right: Amy Carter, 34, Matt Paffett, 43, Pernilla Berglund, 42, Latin Smith, 33. Photo: Holly Sayer-Gray

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PORTSMOUTH’s Lord Mayor has thrown out a request to hold a special meeting over proposals to change the city’s fire and rescue cover.

The Lib Dems called for a debate over a petition they submitted to the authority urging it to oppose plans that they say could put lives at risk.

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They originally wanted the matter discussed at this month’s scheduled meeting of all council members, but it was cancelled due to a lack of business needing to be discussed.

But efforts by the Lib Dems to get another meeting have been shot down by Lord Mayor Councillor Frank Jonas, on the grounds it is not ‘an emergency’ and it can wait until the next scheduled full council debate in February.

And he warned the cost of holding the meeting – taking into account salaries of three senior officers who would be present – would be £10,000.

But critics say it’s important the issue is discussed now – and they are concerned by the estimated costs involved in having a debate.

So for three officers, that’s £3,300 for a quarter of a day’s work. That means they are being paid £13,000 a day each; multiply that by 250, and they are being paid millions by the council.

Portsmouth Lib Dem leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson

Lib Dem leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson said: ‘Over 1,000 residents of this city have signed a petition and the Conservatives don’t think that’s important enough to discuss. There would be three senior officers, for two hours, and they are being paid clearly more than I think they are.

‘So for three officers, that’s £3,300 for a quarter of a day’s work. That means they are being paid £13,000 a day each; multiply that by 250, and they are being paid millions.’

Southsea fire station could see its crew go from 20 to 16 and its three fire engines be replaced with an enhanced vehicle, intermediate vehicle and a first response vehicle – a move that would save £578,736 a year. Cosham could see one of its two fire engines swapped for a smaller vehicle.

Cllr Jonas said: ‘It’s not an emergency. An example of that would be if the whole seafront collapsed. They want the petition read out and debated, and yet that can be read out and debated at the February meeting, which still gives them three weeks before the fire service make a decision anyway.’