Fire merger is the best way forward

Swindon Advertiser: Wiltshire chief fire officer Simon Routh-Jones Wiltshire chief fire officer Simon Routh-Jones

A WILTSHIRE fire chief has said a merger with a neighbouring fire authority is the best move forward for both services.

It was announced last week that talks are underway to combine Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service with Dorset to cut costs.

Government grants make up about 40 per cent of the overall funding in Wiltshire but are expected to be cut in half by the end of the decade.

This has left the services needing to plug a gap of £4m or implement a potentially disastrous round of cuts, with some estimates saying 70 of the county’s 144 full-time firefighters would need to go.

Chief Fire Officer Simon Routh-Jones said joining with Dorset would allow Wiltshire to keep a high level of frontline services, although he could not rule out cuts.

He said: “In many ways Dorset is a similar force to ours, so any changes would hopefully not be too dramatic.

“We both cover similar areas that are predominately rural and much of our cover is provided by on-call firefighters.

“We also share demographics and have comparable risks, such as a high number of thatched properties. Already we both work on combined initiatives because of our close proximity.”

Over the next nine months a business case will be put together to determine exactly what the new service would look like.

Both services need to make savings but it is hoped the merger will find the majority of those.

Combined they will make up the fourth largest fire service, giving them greater negotiating powers when buying equipment. It is hoped bringing together back office services, such as a combined control room in Potterne, will also cut costs.

Alternative mergers were looked at but were ruled out in favour of the Dorset option.

“On a national level there have been discussions on ways for the fire service to save money as the budget cuts are being faced all over the country,” said Mr Routh-Jones.

“There was mention of joining up with the police or ambulance services but in the end the best way forward was to go with a fire-fire combination.

“We will now develop the business plan, which we will then present to our relevant fire authorities in September 2014. If everything went to plan the changes could come into force by 2016.”

Comments (4)

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7:26am Tue 17 Dec 13

Blind Fury says...

Fire service? What Fire service?

Wise words coming from a guy who is past the end of his career, having a baited his pension.....does he really give a fig for the future shape of Wiltshire Fire Service, or just treading water until Dorset Fire Chief is in charge of both counties?
Fire service? What Fire service? Wise words coming from a guy who is past the end of his career, having a baited his pension.....does he really give a fig for the future shape of Wiltshire Fire Service, or just treading water until Dorset Fire Chief is in charge of both counties? Blind Fury

10:02am Tue 17 Dec 13

Synergie says...

Budget cuts are forcing the authority to spend the "reserves" they have hoarded over the years. It's not just Fire and Rescue, many other public service providers were also sitting on huge reserves in high return overseas bank accounts, all revealed when the Icelandic banks crashed. Clearly, government funding in previous years was way in excess of what was actually needed to supply the service.
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Public Service providers should be doing just that, not setting themselves up as small-time investment services.
Budget cuts are forcing the authority to spend the "reserves" they have hoarded over the years. It's not just Fire and Rescue, many other public service providers were also sitting on huge reserves in high return overseas bank accounts, all revealed when the Icelandic banks crashed. Clearly, government funding in previous years was way in excess of what was actually needed to supply the service. . Public Service providers should be doing just that, not setting themselves up as small-time investment services. Synergie

11:29am Tue 17 Dec 13

StillPav says...

Why, if 40% of the funding is being cut in half (therefore 20% reduction in total funding), would this results in a 70% reduction in full-time firefighters?
Why, if 40% of the funding is being cut in half (therefore 20% reduction in total funding), would this results in a 70% reduction in full-time firefighters? StillPav

3:26pm Tue 17 Dec 13

swindondad says...

StillPav wrote:
Why, if 40% of the funding is being cut in half (therefore 20% reduction in total funding), would this results in a 70% reduction in full-time firefighters?
As with all the "doom mongers" they take the whole £ cut and apply it to just a single aspect of the budget to try and make their point.
The total budget would allow for buying new equipment, rents, training. Administration etc.

The idea of combining the relatively small county brigades so that they can save on training, HR, back office functions is IMHO a good idea. If the unions and Politian’s stay out of it we (the public) might just get a better service at a lower cost.
[quote][p][bold]StillPav[/bold] wrote: Why, if 40% of the funding is being cut in half (therefore 20% reduction in total funding), would this results in a 70% reduction in full-time firefighters?[/p][/quote]As with all the "doom mongers" they take the whole £ cut and apply it to just a single aspect of the budget to try and make their point. The total budget would allow for buying new equipment, rents, training. Administration etc. The idea of combining the relatively small county brigades so that they can save on training, HR, back office functions is IMHO a good idea. If the unions and Politian’s stay out of it we (the public) might just get a better service at a lower cost. swindondad

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