COMMUNITY campaigners who took their protest against firefighter cuts in Torquay to Downing Street have suffered a setback after the Prime Minister said it was not a matter for him.
Susie Colley, chair of the Torquay Neighbourhood Forum, led a delegation from Torquay to Number 10 on September 11.
They asked David Cameron to intervene and reverse a decision of the Devon and Somerset Fire Service to cut the number of frontline firefighters in Torquay to save money.
The delegation handed over a petition with 22,000 names — including those from a Herald Express ‘Stop the Fire Cuts’ protest — to Downing Street.
But a letter from the Department for Communities and Local Government to Mrs Colley says that while it ‘notes’ the concerns of people in Torquay ‘neither the Minister for Fire nor the Prime Minister can intervene in these decisions, which are local matters’.
“Indeed it is this Government’s policy that authorities should be held to account by their communities, not Whitehall.
“If you are unhappy with the decisions being taken by the authority, you should continue to seek to challenge these decisions at local level.”
However Mrs Colley has vowed to carry on the fight.
She said: “Clearly they can’t be bothered.
“I am going to take this to the MEP and Brussels and if needs be I’ll shame this Government to listen.
“There are alternatives to cuts. The council tax precept for the fire service would have to increase by just 50p a month for a Band D property.
“There has to be a hidden agenda here because they seem hell bent on getting rid of firefighters.
“Firefighters are there to save lives and rescue us. Our first human right is to protect life but as far as I can see local government and national government are not obeying and protecting our lives.
“If they were they would have looked at all the alternatives.
“I am absolutely adamant I am not going to leave this alone because 99 per cent of the public do not know what it means to them when they have got half a fire service left.”
The fire service says it needs to make £5.5million of cuts over two years to make up for a shortfall in government funding.
Some of those savings will come from replacing a full-time pump in Torquay with a part-time one.
Campaigners say that although retained firefighters do an excellent job response times will inevitably suffer and lives could be lost.
The fire service authority voted in favour of the controversial Proposal 10 at a meeting in the summer.
They say only a small number of properties in Torquay will get slower response times despite a reduction in the number of front line firefighters.