Thurrock Labour and UKIP unite in heated debate on fire service cuts

A MOTION to object fire service cuts of up to a half and urge the Essex Fire and Rescue Service to expand the level of fire cover in Thurrock was narrowly passed in a heated debate at full Council last night (Wednesday).

The hot topic proved to divide Council along party lines, with Labour’s Cllr Michael Stone proposing the motion, which also included raising the concerns with the Borough’s two MPs, Jackie Doyle-Price and Stephen Metcalfe.

The motion passed by 22 votes to 17, with one abstention, as Conservative calls to hear what the fire authority had to say under councillors’ questioning at a later meeting, were rejected.

Cllr Mark Coxshall, fire representative for Thurrock, had told councillors that 2016 is no longer a time when fires are a regular occurrence, and that therefore changes in how the fire service is run had to be implemented, including in his opinion the disbandment of the fire authority altogether.

Cllr Coxshall added: “Consider that huge palace on the A12, it’s ridiculous to have these massive buildings and then there’s still no conversation really going on, and this we must change.”

Leader of the Council, Cllr John Kent, hit back at Cllr Coxshall for over his claim that the fire authority was no longer needed, and accused him of shirking his duties as the Council’s representative, as it was revealed he had only attended one meeting of the fire authority out of seven invitations.

Cllr Kent said: “Maybe before he calls for the fire authority to go, he should go to the fire authority.”

When councillors heard this news, there were shouts of "disgraceful" from the chamber. Records revealed that cllr Coxshall, the partner and political adviser to Thurrock MP Jackie Doyle Price had not submitted any apologies to the Essex Fire Authority.

The position comes with an allowance of just under £4,500 a year.

Tory Leader, Cllr Robert Gledhill had appealed to councillors to revisit the motion at a later time, turning a blind eye to the six month rule, when the Council had more information on why the cuts were being implemented.

However, Cllr Terry Hipsey added that the public “would never forgive this Council” if they stood back, saying the fire service cannot be treated like a business, and must be well funded to be there for residents when they need them.

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