A POTENTIAL merger between Wiltshire and Dorset fire brigades is being put before the public in a three-month consultation.
The merger is one of several options being considered by fire service chiefs as a result of deep cuts in government funding. Others include closer working with Wiltshire Council and the police.
A parallel consultation is being held in Dorset during the same time In both counties, residents will be able to see further information and complete an on-line questionnaire.
Wiltshire fire chief Simon Routh-Jones said: “We are keen to know what local people think about our options to strengthen our fire and rescue service. We have a number of potential ways forward including a potential merger with Dorset Fire Authority.”
He stressed: “We are consulting widely on this important issue and we would encourage any views as no decisions have yet been made.”
Fire authority chairman Christopher Devine added: “We face difficult financial times ahead that result from cuts to our central Government grant.
We need to find significant savings from our limited budget whilst protecting frontline services. It is vital that local people take this opportunity to find out more about the proposals and have their say, and we would encourage as many people as possible to get involved now that the consultation has started.”
Wiltshire is having to absorb a £3.1 million hole in its budget and Dorset faces a similar cut. The brigades have put forward the merger proposal as a way of protecting frontline services.
But the idea has come under fire from Wiltshire Council. In May, deputy leader John Thomson said he was very concerned in the light of what had happened to the ambulance service since it had been combined to form South West Ambulance Service.
He said the brigade should be looking to share services and facilities with the unitary authority. He also suggested the fire, ambulance and police stations in Malmesbury could be combined in one.
As part of the consultation random selection of 12,000 households across Wiltshire and Dorset will receive the questionnaire directly. Information will also be council offices and libraries, and consultation forums will be held with the public, businesses and voluntary organisations.
Visit wiltsfire.gov.uk/strengtheningourfrs to view the proposals.