Fire consultation is back on

A PUBLIC consultation on whether Wiltshire’s fire service should merge with Dorset’s is back on after a political row.

But significant changes are being made to the consultative document at the centre of the falling-out between Conservative councillors which led to the authority’s chairman, Graham Payne, being ousted.

The original paper, drawn up by the two counties’ chief fire officers, put forward a detailed business case for a merger as the only way to avoid cuts which would mean closing retained fire stations such as Wilton and downgrading Salisbury, with up to half Wiltshire’s firefighters losing their jobs.

Each service is facing the prospect of annual budget shortfalls exceeding £3m in a couple of years’ time.

Wiltshire Council, however, wants to take over the county fire service’s back office functions, as it has done with the police, and this is what led to the Tory split and the postponement of the consultation last month.

Such a move would save £800,000 a year. It would prevent the merger and would require frontline cuts.

This option, and a variation on it which would still require frontline cuts, are likely to be included in the consultation document.

The consultation will begin on Monday, July 21 and run for 13 weeks. It will involve focus groups of randomly selected residents, business and voluntary group forums, and questionnaires available in public buildings and online. The issue will also be discussed at area board meetings.

A decision will be made in November.

Comments (1)

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11:46am Mon 14 Jul 14

Friend of the People says...

It still seems to me that the merger with Dorset is the only sensible way of preserving local fire stations providing reliable fire cover. All this talk of getting Wiltshire Council to take over the back office functions will not save any where near the £3.9 million shortfall that has to be covered.

Yet for some undisclosed reason, Jane Scott, Leader of Wiltshire Council and North Wiltshire MP, James Gray, are dead set against the merger. Apparently they have now been joined by Jon Hubbard, Leader of the Lib Dems on Wiltshire Council, yet those Lib Dems on the Fire Authority back the merger. As do all other Wiltshire MPs apart from James Gray.

Just what is going on?
It still seems to me that the merger with Dorset is the only sensible way of preserving local fire stations providing reliable fire cover. All this talk of getting Wiltshire Council to take over the back office functions will not save any where near the £3.9 million shortfall that has to be covered. Yet for some undisclosed reason, Jane Scott, Leader of Wiltshire Council and North Wiltshire MP, James Gray, are dead set against the merger. Apparently they have now been joined by Jon Hubbard, Leader of the Lib Dems on Wiltshire Council, yet those Lib Dems on the Fire Authority back the merger. As do all other Wiltshire MPs apart from James Gray. Just what is going on? Friend of the People
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