Have your say on fire merger
5:00am Wednesday 6th August 2014 in By Mike Benke, @Michael_Benke
WILTSHIRE Fire and Rescue could soon be merged with another area’s service and work more closely with the police, in an attempt to save money.
In the face of heavy cuts, a proposal has been put forward to merge Wiltshire and Dorset Fire Services to save £4m and protect frontline services. The move would also see resources with other partner agencies shared.
However, this is not the only option available although it is the one which will save the most money.
Other possibilities include closer work with other agencies but these will not deliver the required level of savings.
Over the next few years, the fire service is expecting to see its budget from Government cut in half, leading to a 20 per cent reduction in overall funding.
People are being presented with three options to choose from. The first will see the service working more closely with both Wiltshire and Swindon Council, such as sharing office space. The second would involve the same moves but include more cooperation, although not a full merger, with Dorset Fire Service.
Neither of those options deliver the required savings so it is possible extra cuts to frontline services would be needed.
The merger option would see the two services combine to share back office services, which fire chiefs have said is the best way to avoid further cuts.
As well as merging, the third option includes closer work with the council and other partners such as Wiltshire Police. Coun Garry Perkins (Con, Haydon Wick), who is on the Wiltshire Fire Authority, said: “For me the third option is the only one in which the numbers add up without any cuts to frontline services.
“That is the most important thing. When people call the fire brigade they should get a response. If things carry on then Wiltshire Fire Service will be £3m in the red as all the reserves will have been used up.
“The only viable option is for closer work with Wiltshire Council and other partners such as the police.”
The consultation is being sent to around 5,000 random households across the region while it is also available online.
Wiltshire Councillor Chris-topher Devine, Chairman of Wiltshire & Swindon Fire Authority, said: “We face difficult financial times ahead that result from cuts to our central Government grant. We need to find significant savings from our limited budget whilst protecting frontline services.
“It is vital local people take this opportunity to find out more about the proposals and have their say, and we would encourage as many people as possible to get involved now that the consultation has started.”
To complete a consultation form visit www.wiltsfire.gov.uk/strengtheningourfrs
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