Fire service future needs a clear sense of direction

First published in Salisbury Letters

THE local and regional media have recently reported contrasting views on the future of Wiltshire Fire & Rescue Service from James Gray MP and Councillor Graham Payne, pictured right.

While it is clear that James Gray is fundamentally opposed to any merger with Dorset Fire and Rescue Service; it is much less clear that he has any real understanding of the enormity of the financial shortfall that the Wiltshire service is facing.

The £700,000, or even £800,000, savings that could be achieved by Wiltshire Council taking over the back office role won’t make much of a dent in the £3.8m that is required. In contrast, Graham’s Payne’s case for the merger, with its savings from the reduction in the duplication of senior uninformed ranks and support functions, demonstrably makes economic and organisational sense. It should also be noted that all of the four other Wiltshire MPs are not opposed to the merger.

Yet, Jane Scott, Conservative leader of Wiltshire Council, and other top Conservative Wiltshire councillors are at one with James Gray in not seeing the strong case for it. Now apparently they have been joined by Jon Hubbard, Leader of the LibDems on Wiltshire Council, whereas a considerable number of his fellow LibDem councillors are declared supporters of the merger.

James Gray, Jane Scott and Jon Hubbard have all seen the figures produced by senior fire officers that amply illustrate that a merger is the only economically viable way forward. Therefore, one has to seriously question why they are so reluctant to see the obvious. It is a case of wilful blindness.

One has to wonder as to their motivation.

Jeff Osborn

Independent Wiltshire councillor

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