Sponsorship plans to keep under threat fire services in West Sussex met with scepticism

A discussion about sponsorship for the fire service left West Sussex councillors imagining firefighters going about their work with ‘Eat at McDonald’s!’ emblazoned across their backs.

County councillor George Barton expresssed his scepticism at plans to secure sponsorship for some of West Sussex's fire services

The light-hearted scenario was shared during a serious debate about £400,000 of proposed cuts to the county’s fire service operations budget.

Services in line to be axed if the funding cuts are approved include the Safe Drive Stay Alive programme and Fire Break courses.

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There was a lukewarm reaction when Debbie Kennard, cabinet member for safer, stronger communities, pointed out that the council was working to attract sponsorship for some of the at-risk services.

The council is offering sponsorship packages costing between £1,000 and £1,250.

George Barton (Con, Sompting & North Lancing) said: “I’ve got this mental vision of our firefighters running around and fighting a fire with ‘Eat at McDonald’s’ on their backs and a burnt hamburger plastered across.

“Silly I know, but are you aware of how difficult it is to fundraise in today’s fragile commercial economy?

“It’s not easy to raise money and it’s not easy to guarantee it for a period of time.”

Nicola Bulbeck, executive director for communities and public protection, said she was aware of the difficulties but insisted that the council’s corporate commercial team was ‘actively engaged’ in exploring all the opportunities available.

Ms Kennard pointed out that Surrey’s Safe Drive Stay Alive programme was fully sponsored and West Sussex hoped to do something similar.

She added: “We are trying to work to get this sponsorship so we can keep these services.”

There was little optimism for the idea, though, with Simon Oakley (Con, Chichester East) telling the meeting that there had been a ‘very limited response’ to the appeal for sponsorship.