S.O.S – Save Our Services

Laura White
Laura White

Ashburton Fire Station is set close as part of the biggest shake-up of the fire service in fifty years.

In all eight fire stations in the Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service area are earmarked for closure. Donald Distin Town Councillor and crew manager at the fire station has vowed to fight the planned closure as he fears that lives will be lost if the fire station is closed – arguing that the statistics being used to justify the massive cuts are ‘questionable’.

He is also asking the people of Ashburton to lobby the fire authorities. “Write emails, letters – do anything. Bombard them with sound reason why these cuts should not go ahead in their current form.” Former Ashburton Mayors Sarah Parker Khan, John Nutley and  Don Distin have joined together in voicing their disapproval of the plan to close the fire station which has 12 fire personel and one pump.

Devon and Somerset Chief Fire Officer Lee Howell said: “This is a difficult time for the staff affected and we are committed
to working with them to consider how we might provide options as we move forward.”

The Chief Fire officer went on to say that the number of fire incidents had dropped because of fire prevention. Ashburton is to hold a public meeting to discuss the cuts with the fire service.

Mel Stride MP  for Central Devon and local resident said: “I would strongly urge residents in Ashburton and the surrounding communities to engage with the public consultation that Devon and Somerset fire and Rescue Authority will be holding for 12 weeks to let them know the strength of feeling locally about how important our fire station is and that we want to keep it open. Ashburton is ideally located both in terms of the A38 access and for getting onto Dartmoor an it would be a sad day for our town if it were to close.”

If these plans go forward there will be a 12 week public consultation from the 1st July to 20th September. The Devon and Somerset fire stations facing closure include Ashburton, Appledore, Budleigh Salterton, Colyton, Kingston, Topsham and Woolacombe in Devon and Porlock in Somerset.

On the other side of Dartmoor the post office in the pretty village of Moretonhampstead is up for sale and is to close in February 2020. Jenny Tribe the owner the Post Office and related business has been trying to find a buyer for the freehold property.

The property is currently on the market for £110,000. The powers that be at Royal Mail are to close the sorting office at Moretonhampstead, along with Chudleigh, their sorting offices are to be withdrawn and taken back to Newton Abbot. With the post office taking back the sorting side of the business will cut away Jenny’s main income stream. “I am not working for £2 an hour,” she said.

Many sub postmasters work for less than the minimum wage. This is another blow to the town who saw Lloyds’ bank close its branch in May 2017. People in the town are upset that yet another service will be taken away.

Many of the small businesses in Moretonhampstead, including a number of cafes, are cash only operations and use the Post Office banking services on a daily basis. Many of their customers cannot access or do not trust online banking and will be left high and dry. The town’s elderly population, many of whom don’t drive, will not have access to their own accounts.

The MP for Central Devon Mel Stride, said: “Moretonhampstead Post Office provides a range of valuable services to local residents and has become even more important after the closure of Lloyds bank, with the banking services available at the post office a lifeline for many personal and business customers.

‘I have written to Royal Mail, as other branches are impacted about the withdrawal of local sorting offices, and I have been in contact with the South West representative of the Federation of Sub Postmasters and will do whatever I can to support the branch.”

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