VIDEO: Fire chief warns of redundancies if merger with Dorset doesn't go ahead (From Swindon Advertiser)
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VIDEO: Fire chief warns of redundancies if merger with Dorset doesn't go ahead
3:29pm Friday 13th December 2013 in News
THE chairman of Wiltshire and Swindon Fire Authority Graham Payne says that if a merger between the brigade and Dorset does not go ahead two or three fire stations in Wiltshire could lose their 24 hour status and redundancies could follow.
Coun Payne said the announcement made today that the two authorities are working towards a merger that would see a new control room at Potterne, near Devizes, serving both counties.
Coun Payne said: “I am not a fan of regionalisation but we are being forced into making changes as we have suffered severe cutbacks to our finances. If we were allowed to put council tax up in Wiltshire by £40 a year we would not have to be going down this road but we are capped at two per cent.
“We are a very good fit with Dorset as we are incredibly similar as counties. If the plan goes ahead for them to move their control centre to Potterne Wiltshire would have much less of an upheaval than them.”
Wiltshire and Swindon Fire Authority has already kitted out a state of the art control centre in Potterne and expect to move from police headquarters in Devizes within the next couple of months.
Coun Payne said savings from the merger would come from needing fewer top officers and back room functions such as legal advice and administration.
He said that at the moment Wiltshire has 24 stations and Dorset 26 and are two of the smallest authorities in the country but the combined total of 50 would make them one of the biggest. He said: “We will have much more clout nationally as we would be one of the big boys.”
Consultation is to start in the new year and a meeting for MPs from both counties will be held in London in January. MPs were only officially told of the plans yesterday.
Chief Fire Officer Simon Routh-Jones refused to rule out redundancies or the closure of fire stations but said merging the two fire services was the best way of avoiding that scenario.
He said: "In the past 12 months the financial situation has got considerably worse. With the savings we need to make it is not possible for us to stand alone.
"Of course at this stage I cannot rule out cuts to frontline services but through this potential merger we hope to avoid them."
Due to significant cuts in funding from central government, it has left the service needing to find more than £3 million in savings. If Wiltshire were to remain a line service this could lead to almost half of fire fighters losing their jobs.
"The bulk of the savings will come through top level management reductions, a streamlining of services, such as fire investigation, and procurement savings," said Simon.
"There could well be only one Chief Fire Officer so it is a bit like turkeys voting for Christmas but I would rather leave with the service going somewhere rather than sinking."
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