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Fire engines reduced from four to three across St Helens as £19m of cuts bite
THE number of fire engines stationed in St Helens has been cut from four to three, following swingeing Government cuts, the Star has learned.
Across Merseyside, the fire service has lost £19m of funding in four years.
The biggest impact on St Helens is at the Parr Stocks headquarters, where the number of engines was reduced from two to one from last month.
In further efforts to save costs, discussions have taken place over the possible merger of fire stations across the region, including Huyton and Whiston, Eccleston with Parr Stocks, or Eccleston with Whiston.
However, the region’s fire chief Dan Stephens has insisted the service is continuing to work “efficiently and effectively”, following the changes he has been forced to make.
Speaking to the Star, Mr Stephens said: “We have had to make substantial savings across the service. This has meant a reduction in the number of fire engines. In 2010, we had 42, but now we have 28.
“Across St Helens there are two fire engines crewed 24 hours a day, with four fighters on each.
“At Newton there is a different rota system in operation. For 12 hours at night, crews would be in houses nearby to provide cover.
“What I did in St Helens was take away the second fire engine from Parr Stocks and the engine at Eccleston had an upgraded crew on 24 hours a day.
“So we did up the staff at the fire station to compensate.
“What it allows us to do is maintain the same speed of attendance to incidents.
“It was the least worse option.”
Cllr Dave Hanratty, chairman of Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority, said huge reductions in management costs had made been, but he added that the “Government has left us with no option, but to cut our frontline services even further”.
He said: “Our officers have plans in place that we are confident will limit the direct impact on our services to the community, but the Government can’t take £19m out of our budget over the four years of the spending review and it not have an effect.”
Cllr Hanratty claimed the region had the worst funding cuts of any fire service in the country.
He added: “Announcements for 2015/16 indicate we will have to make further multi-million pound cuts going forward.
“We recognise that communities have an affiliation with their fire stations, but we have reached the point where we cannot continue without reducing the number of fire stations we operate.”
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