PEOPLE are being asked to vote on plans that could mean huge cuts in Wiltshire’s fire service.
The fire chiefs of Wiltshire and Dorset, both with big budget shortfalls looming, recently produced a blueprint for combining their forces, believing it is the only way they can save the necessary millions through economies of scale without axing jobs and frontline services.
But Wiltshire councillors on the county fire authority want the public to also consider two other options which involve the services remaining separate and working more closely with councils and other emergency services.
Their consultation document admits that these would achieve relatively small savings and are likely to mean more job losses and slower response times.
Disagreement within Tory ranks over the issue led to the ousting of the fire authority chairman, Cllr Graham Payne, who favoured a merger. He has been replaced by Cllr Chris Devine, from Winterslow.
Dorset residents will be asked the same questions but the online consultation portal for them sets out a business case for the merger which the Wiltshire authority has chosen not to include.
Simon Routh-Jones, Wiltshire’s chief fire officer, said: “We are consulting widely on this important issue and we would encourage any views as no decisions have yet been made.”
To take part go to www.wiltsfire.gov.uk/strengtheningourfrs.
Paper copies of the questionnaire are also available at libraries and council offices, and a random selection of 12,000 households across the two counties will receive them directly in the post.
Wiltshire residents who want to read the business case for the merger should go to www.dorsetfrsconsultation.citizenspace.com/ and click on the link ‘Strengthening our fire and rescue service in Dorset’.
The consultation runs until October 20, after which the fire authorities will make a decision on what to do next.
A call for Wiltshire councillors to support the proposed merger of the county’s fire service with Dorset’s will be made tomorrow (Tuesday).
Independent councillors Terry Chivers and Jeff Osborn will put the motion to a full council meeting at Trowbridge.