A NEW chairman has been elected to the Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service Authority.

Dorset County Councillor Rebecca Knox, previously chairman of the Dorset Fire Authority, was one of two nominations, the second being Wiltshire councillor Chris Devine, previously the chairman of Wiltshire & Swindon Combined Fire Authority.

Cllr Knox received the majority vote at the first meeting yesterday, telling members: "It's a great privilege and a great honour and I hope I live up to your expectations and the expectations of all our communities in carrying out the job which I will do with all my best intent."

Swindon Borough Councillor Garry Perkins, formerly vice-chairman of Wiltshire & Swindon Combined Fire Authority, was elected vice-chairman of the new authority after being the only nomination.

Cllr Knox was made chairman of the authority's policy and resources committee, while Wiltshire councillor Bob Jones was made chairman of the audit and finance committee.

The fire authority comprises 30 elected members from all five constituent local councils:

Bournemouth Borough Council – four members

Dorset County Council – eight members

Borough of Poole – three members

Swindon Borough Council – five members

Wiltshire Council – ten members

The new era sees the two county's fire and rescue services formally merged into one organisation.

But the chief fire officer of the new service, Darran Gunter, was obviously so thrilled to be in the new fire HQ in Salisbury that he forgot to mention Dorset in his welcome and introduction.

Speaking at the first fire authority meeting on Friday, Mr Gunter, who was formerly the chief fire officer for Dorset, said: "Good morning ladies and gentleman. Welcome to the new home of the Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service and the Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Authority. I've been dying to say that for three years."

Members soon pointed out his mistake which caused a moment of light relief and prompted him to say: "I obviously did that on purpose as a bit of an ice-breaker.

"It is fantastic to be here and it's down to a lot of hard work by members and officers but we've done it where many people said we couldn't. It is fantastic."

Speaking later on in the meeting, he said: "In 2015/2016, and even 2014/2015, we worked at a huge pace and I think we left some people behind.

"If 2015/16 was about policy and the price of the organisation then 2016/2017 has to be about the hearts and minds of our people. That's certainly top of my list."