The Fire Brigades Union in Dorset and Wiltshire has urged “extreme caution” after the fire services in the two counties announced plans to explore a potential combination.
It was announced late yesterday (Thursday 12 December) that members of Wiltshire and Swindon Fire Authority and Dorset Fire Authority have agreed to work towards developing a business case for a merger, paving the way for a potential combination of both fire authorities and fire services in two yearsâ€™ time (April 2016).
FBU Brigade Secretary for Dorset, Karen Adams, said: â€œItâ€™s time that politicians understood the real damage that their cuts are doing, and a merger with Wiltshire will not resolve the key issue for fire and rescue services, which is funding.
â€œDorsetâ€™s fire control room is a vital resource for the safety of communities in Dorset, and the idea of one emergency fire control room covering both counties is untenable.
â€œFire control staff are highly skilled members of our team, and our priority will always be to protect the frontline services and our members that deliver it.â€
FBU Brigade Secretary for Wiltshire, Brent Thorley, said the merger proposals were a surprise for many staff: “We were aware of talks about shared services but did not expect it to go this far.
â€œWe have been facing cuts in the fire service for several years now with the government exerting pressure to cut frontline services.
â€œWhat we need to see is the detail: where is the democracy and accountability? We want to know how this will impact on response times, the service to the public and what it will mean for the firefighters themselves”.
FBU Executive Member for the South West, Tam McFarlane, said: â€œBigger is not necessarily better for the public or for firefighters.
â€œThis merger is a diversion from the main issue, which is central government cutbacks, which are rapidly leading to a crisis in fire and rescue services and driving brigades to the brink of insolvency.
â€œDevon and Somerset merged six years ago and are about to cut one in five frontline firefighter jobs, demonstrating that mergers do not provide a long-term, viable solution to protect frontline services.â€
Dorsetâ€™s Chief Fire Officer has gone on record saying that our fire service cannot sustain continued budget reductions by Government.