A NEW joint control centre for Wiltshire and Dorset fire services has been officially opened in Potterne, near Devizes, but there is no guarantee the headquarters will survive the merger in April next year.

Calls for both counties have been answered in the village since August 26, but yesterday the chairmen of the two existing fire authorities declared the new service control centre open.

Coun Christopher Devine, a member of Wiltshire and Swindon Fire Authority, was joined by Dorset councillor Rebecca Knox for the ceremony.

Darran Gunter, chief fire officer for Dorset Fire and Rescue Service, who will become boss of the merged service on April 1, said: “We’ve been working towards this moment since the end of 2013, when elected members from both existing fire authorities agreed unanimously to combine the two control rooms.

“The control centre is a vital part of our emergency response, our operators are the first contact that people have with us when they call 999, and they are responsible for mobilising our appliances to wherever they need to be.”

Wiltshire chief fire officer Simon Routh-Jones, who faces redundancy, said: “We are proud of the control centre at Potterne, which is the first building to carry the new badge of Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service.

“In addition, our control staff are the first to wear the new uniform and name badges, making them very much at the forefront of our move to a combined organisation.

"Everyone involved in the transition to the new service control centre has worked extremely hard to deliver the project on time, and they deserve every praise for what has been achieved.”

More than a dozen Dorset control staff have joined colleagues from Wiltshire in the control centre, which is the first formal bringing together of functions within the new service.

The Shadow Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Authority agreed to establish a strategic hub in Salisbury by April 2016, putting the future of the Potterne HQ in doubt.

A spokesman said: “We're in the process of determining which members of staff might be permanently relocated to Salisbury from other parts of Wiltshire and Dorset.

"This is being done as part of developing the new organisational structure and decisions have yet to be made.

“Alongside the work to progress the new Salisbury site, both Wiltshire and Dorset FRSs are carrying out detailed reviews of their whole combined estate.

“It is too early to say what the future of Potterne headquarters will be. However, the new service is committed to achieving the best possible outcome for its staff and the communities it serves, while also being mindful of the financial pressures within which it is being formed.”