Merseyside fire station merger to cost 88 jobs

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Fire stations in St Helens, Knowsley and Wirral could merge with the loss of 88 firefighter jobs.

Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority approved the changes at a meeting.

Six stations will merge into three and the service claims it will lose the jobs through "natural wastage."

It is claimed the move will save up to £6.5m in the 2015/6 financial year and a consultation is taking place, but the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) described it as "vandalism".

The authority said it is a better option than closing stations outright.

West Kirkby and Upton will merge on Wirral with a new station at Greasby, and St Helens the Eccleston and St Helens stations will merge.

In Knowsley, Huyton and Whiston will merge at Prescot.

Dave Hanratty, chairman of the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority, said: "Merseyside has had the worst funding cuts of any fire and rescue service in the country.

"We have reached the point where we cannot continue without reducing the number of stations we operate."

He said the number and distribution of fire stations across Merseyside "has hardly changed since the 1950s" while the number of incidents has "reduced by more than 50%."

'Sacking firefighters'

A consultation, in two stages, will begin with an "open-ended listening phase" followed by a more formal second phase on the final proposals.

Mark Rowe, secretary of the Merseyside FBU, said: "They talk about 'merging' fire stations - but we call it vandalism. There is no other name for closing fire stations and sacking firefighters.

"I hope the government can live with their consciences, especially after the dreadful events in Glasgow last weekend.

"There is no doubt that the government is to blame for decisions taken to keep accountants happy and without regard to the safety of ordinary men and women."

Senior officers have blamed the move on government grant cuts scheduled for 2015 onwards.

The population of Merseyside has fallen from a peak of 1.65 million in the 1950s to about 1.35 million now.

In 2003, there were 1,500 firefighters in Merseyside but the numbers will reduce to 760 by 2015.

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