England

Dorset, Wiltshire and Swindon fire authorities submit merger request

An official fire authority merger request "to protect frontline services" in Dorset, Wiltshire and Swindon has been submitted to central government.

Dorset Fire Authority and Wiltshire & Swindon Combined Fire Authority submitted a combination order to Local Government Secretary, Eric Pickles.

The authorities said funding cuts made running "small fire and rescue services" unsustainable.

If successful, the new fire authority will come into being on 1 April 2016.

'Vacancies to absorb losses'

Darran Gunter, chief fire officer of Dorset, and Simon Routh-Jones, chief fire officer of Wiltshire, said: "Our priority is to protect the services we provide to the public.

"As individual, relatively small fire and rescue services we cannot sustain the continued reductions in government grant.

"In order to protect frontline services to the best of our ability, we have concluded that the best solution is for the two organisations to combine."

Officials have said by 2017 it was expected the Wiltshire service would be facing a £4.2m deficit and Dorset £3.7m.

If approved locally and nationally, a single authority is expected to have a combined budget of around £55m.

Mr Gunter said: "Whilst it is anticipated that the total number of support staff and uniformed managers will be less in the new service than in the exiting two services, we have held a number of vacancies that will absorb the majority of job losses.

"We will do all we can to explore every avenue before we make compulsory redundancies."

Karen Adams, brigade secretary at Dorset Fire Brigade Union (FBU) said: "Now that this decision is made, we will be meeting with our FBU colleagues in Wiltshire at the earliest opportunity to instigate a programme of joint working which will place the views and needs of firefighters across both brigades at the heart of our work."

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