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Unions opposed to fire services merger
LOCAL Union leaders have hit out at the Government after it emerged plans are being discussed to merge Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service with Dorset to cut costs due to a reduction in central funding.
While the exact outline of the merger is not yet known, the possibility of cuts to front-line personnel and the closure of stations has not been ruled out.
This is being done to cope with Government cuts to each service by up to 50 per cent by 2019, which equates to 20 per cent of the overall budget.
Fire chiefs have said that the effect on the fire service if this merger does not take place would be catastrophic and hope the savings can be found through back office cuts along with greater buying power.
But the Fire Brigades Union have said that while they understand the savings have to be made, they are nervous until more details are known about the overall outcome and have criticised the Government for imposing the cuts to funding.
FBU Brigade Secretary for Wiltshire Brent Thorley said the merger proposals were a surprise for many staff.
He said: “We were aware of talks about shared services but did not expect it to go this far.
“We have been facing cuts in the fire service for several years now with the Government exerting pressure to cut front-line services.
“What we need to see is the detail: where is the democracy and accountability? We want to know how this will impact on response times, the service to the public and what it will mean for the firefighters themselves”.
Concern has also been raised following previous mergers which have led to frontline cuts.
FBU Executive Member for the South West, Tam McFarlane, said: “Bigger is not necessarily better for the public or for firefighters.
“This merger is a diversion from the main issue, which is central government cutbacks, which are rapidly leading to a crisis in fire and rescue services and driving brigades to the brink of insolvency.
“Devon and Somerset merged six years ago and are about to cut one in five front-line firefighter jobs, demonstrating that mergers do not provide a long-term, viable solution to protect frontline services.”
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