Wiltshire and Dorset fire service merger: Consultation begins

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Fire and rescue services in Wiltshire and Dorset have started a consultation process into plans which could see the two authorities merge.

The proposals were announced by Wiltshire Fire & Rescue Service and Dorset Fire Authority in December.

Both authorities said the move could help combat the reduction in central government funding.

The consultation, which is being held in both counties, is seeking comments until 20 October.

'Important issue'

As well as an online questionnaire, a random selection of 12,000 households across Wiltshire and Dorset will receive the questionnaire directly.

Simon Routh-Jones, chief fire officer of Wiltshire Fire & Rescue Service, said both bodies were "keen to know what local people think" about the "important issue".

Darran Gunter, chief fire officer of Dorset Fire and Rescue Service, said the organisation faced a "challenging financial future".

As part of the plans, the two fire services could also move to a joint command and control centre in Potterne, Wiltshire, in 2015.

The authorities said that by 2017, it was expected the Wiltshire service would be facing a £4.2m deficit, and Dorset £3.7m.

If the merger goes ahead the new organisation would become the fourth-largest combined fire authority in England, outside of London.

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