PROPOSALS to merge Wiltshire Fire Service with its Dorset neighbour have come in for heavy criticism from Malmesbury area councillors.

The brigade, which is facing a hole in its budget of more than £3.1 million following deep cuts in government funding, is working on a business plan and is about to go out to public consultation on draft proposals.

But Malmesbury Area Board chairman John Thomson is to write urging fire chiefs to think again.

“I personally think the Wiltshire Fire Service should stay as Wiltshire Fire Service. We have seen what has happened to the ambulance service and I’m very concerned.”

He said instead of looking over the border the Wiltshire brigade should be looking at sharing services and facilities with the unitary authority.

“We think that’s the route to go down. We’re disappointed that the fire service e is going down a different route, we think that exposes them more to being regionalised.”

He also suggested: “We have a police station, an ambulance station and a fire station in Malmesbury. They should be brought into one unit.”

Cllr Simon Killane, for Malmesbury felt a business case should be drawn up for linking the county’s different emergency services instead. “I think it is a really big wasted opportunity here,” he said.

Minety division councillor Chuck Berry wondered whether there was scope for working with the military in the county, while Cllr Toby Sturgis who represents the Brinkworth division drew on personal experience when he said regional control centres had not proved successful.

“We had a large farm fire and the call went to the out of Wiltshire call centre, which had no idea of where I was talking about.” Merging with other fire services would mean a loss of local knowledge,” he added.

Community area manager Miranda Gilmour was also concerned that the consultation on such an important decision was being done in the summer when many people would be on holiday.

It opens on June 16 and runs until August 24.

The two brigades and their fire authorities are proposing a merger in a bid to protect frontline services. Both face significant budget deficits and more cuts in funding from central government.

They revealed their plan at the end of last year.