The fire services merger is “eminently practical and sensible” says UKIP councillor
As a Wiltshire councillor and the UKIP prospective parliamentary candidate for Devizes I have been following the machinations concerning the future of Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Services with interest.
In February of this year, like many other councillors, I was given a briefing by the Chief Fire Officer for Wiltshire, which included their financial position now and in the coming years as a result of the reduction in funding from the Conservative/Liberal government.
These continuing austerity cuts have the potential of putting people’s lives at risk but the coalition government do not seem interested.
In the next few years Wiltshire’s Fire and Rescue Service need to make annual savings of about £3.8 million or risk losing front line staff -- firefighters and rescue personnel -- and seeing the closure of many of our fire stations.
A plan was put forward for consultation, which should have started this week but has been delayed by the Tory group on Wiltshire Council, and which mooted the merger of Wiltshire and Dorset fire services.
This merger is eminently practical and sensible to all but James Gray MP and Jane Scott and her Tory followers on Wiltshire Council.
The merger makes sense as Dorset is the adjacent fire services authority, the two fire and rescue operations are of similar social and economic context, size and composition in staff and budgets etc, governance and culture. Each authority could immediately make savings in excess of £1 million per year.
The merger would be a partnership of equals resulting in a single fire authority with a single management structure. It would give us one service with two local identities.
For the Tories to block this in favour of making savings of £700,000 to £750,000 by taking over the back room services is very short-sighted and potentially puts lives at risk. The Tories are doing this simply to increase their power and influence over Wiltshire fire service.
Graham Payne, as Tory Chair of the Wiltshire Fire Authority, bravely stood up against Jane Scott and was forced out of his chairmanship as a result. He is in a very small minority of Conservative Councillors willing publicly to back the merger and risk the wrath of their leader.
I would appeal to other councillors to join the fight to stop the Tories forcing through their misconceived plans.
When and if the proposed merger is put out for public consultation, I hope your readers will join me in voicing their support in the merger. This is the only option if we wish to keep our excellent fire services and personnel in place, after the government cuts to their budget.
UKIP Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Devizes