Tayside Fire and Rescue Board

Tayside Fire and Rescue Board met this morning in Perth. The main item on the agenda was the repsonses to the Towards a Safer Tayside consultation.

The Board meeting this morning decided to accept the document with the exception of references to Balmossie Fire Station and Forfar Fire Station.

I welcome the result of the vote this morning, I was pleased to second the amendment by Ferry councillor Rod Wallace. I am pleased that the Fire and Rescue Board have listened to the many people who took the time to respond to the consultation.

My vote today was all about my role as a member of the Fire and Rescue Board. The mention of extraneous issues, such as the forthcoming General Election, is a distraction. The Fire and Rescue Board consulted, people responded and we took a decision. That decision has been made, it is in many respects the same decision as last year, the decision must now be respected. We should move on and deliver Fire and Rescue services to the people of Tayside.

When I lost the vote about including the Balmossie issue in this year's consultation back in November 2009, I stated that people should take part in the consultation and that I was unclear what had changed since March 2009. I am pleased to say that people did take part in the consultation and I am still unclear what, if anything, has changed since we last made this decision in March 2009.

Please find below a copy of my speech seconding Bailie Rod Wallace's amendment at this morning's meeting of Tayside Fire and Rescue Board.

'Thank you very much Convener,

I have had many concerns about these proposals. I will deal with my concerns later, but firstly I want to deal with issues about process.

In March 2009 this board made a decision about the Towards a Safer Tayside consultation. That decision was made in part in response to the views of the public which were expressed at that time. I am unclear what has changed since then. I will deal with the economic issues we face later.

We hold a public consultation and that is to the credit of this board and I would wish to put on record my thanks and appreciation of the work of all staff of Tayside Fire and Rescue who have facilitated this consultation.

Last year’s consultation was record-breaking; this year’s breaks that record. We know that public bodies are held in contempt by many members of the public, I think if we blithely reject the views of the public we risk that contempt.

We cannot justify holding a public consultation and then say that we don’t recognize the responses that we have received. We have received a phenomenal response to the consultation.

I know that many people will point out that some 5000 of these are standard letters. As a politician, councillor and a campaigner I have often signed standard letters. The standard nature of these letters should cause us to weigh their value. However, I would point out to the elected members of this board that reading and signing these letters (even queuing up to do so) would take at least the same, if not more, effort than it takes to vote in a council election, even after STV-PR.

When the consultation document was voted on in November I was disappointed by the outcome but I urged people to take part in the consultation. I also stated that I would be interested in what had changed since last year’s consultation. Frankly I am not sure that anything has changed. The response, if anything, is stronger.

The case for downgrading Balmossie has not been made. Local people remain concerned that changes at Balmossie will not improve their safety.

We have been reassured throughout this process that these proposals ‘will cost no more money and importantly no less money’ (page 6) therefore at this time we cannot consider issues around the current difficult financial climate. Despite some mentions of it there is no paper in front of us which mentions financial cuts.

I am forced to the conclusion that the case has still not been made. I would reiterate to members that if we hold a public consultation we have a duty to take seriously the responses we receive. We cannot pick and choose the responses which we give weight to. The people of Tayside must have confidence in us as their Fire and Rescue Board that we hold consultations and listen to answers we receive.

Therefore I am happy to second Bailie Wallace.'