The Fire Brigades Union says that merging Avon with Devon and Somerset fire and rescue service is a diversion that will not improve the service to the public.
The union was responding to todayâ€™s surprise announcement by the two fire authority chairs that they have held initial talks with a view to a full merger.
Phil Jordan, FBU regional secretary for the South West said: â€œBigger is not necessarily better for the public or for firefighters. This merger is a diversion from the main issue, which is central government cutbacks to funding the fire and rescue service. Devon and Somerset only merged six years ago, yet it already plans to make cuts to one in five frontline firefighter jobs. Clearly the previous merger has not protected frontline services.â€
Bob Walker, FBU Devon and Somerset chair said: â€œItâ€™s a surprise that these talks have been going on behind the backs of the communities who will be affected and the firefighters who work in both brigades. There has been no assessment of the added risks a mega-brigade will have on the different communities across the South West, who ultimately pay for and deserve a first â€“class professional service.â€
Chris Taylor, Avon FBU brigade secretary commented: â€œWhere is the democracy and accountability? We want to know how this will impact on response times and what it will mean for our conditions. Senior management want to build their mini-empires of influence â€“ weâ€™re interested in defending our service and protecting our communities.
All three FBU officials echoed: â€œThe FBU is adamantly opposed to the idea of a merged mega brigade. The FBU will be making our views known to senior managers as a matter of urgency.â€
Phil Jordan, FBU regional secretary for the South West
Chris Taylor, FBU brigade secretary, Avon
Bob Walker, FBU brigade chair, Devon and Somerset