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Fire authority approves St Helens station mergers
10:23pm Tuesday 3rd December 2013 in News
PLANS to merge fire stations in St Helens have been approved by Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority following huge cuts in government funding.
At today's meeting members agreed mergers - subject to consultation - of a number of fire stations in St Helens, Knowsley and Wirral in response to government grant cuts.
It said the measures are needed to deliver savings to help balance an estimated budget shortfall of at least £6.5 million in 2015/16.
Eccleston and St Helens fire stations will be merged into a new station in the St Helens town centre ward.
In Knowsley, Huyton and Whiston stations would be merged into a new station at Prescot.
On Wirral, West Kirby and Upton would be merged to a new station in Greasby.
In a statement, the authority said: "The decision to merge stations where possible is seen as a better option than closing stations outright as it provides the opportunity to build new and better stations in more appropriate locations."
The Authority also approved, subject to consultation, to the incremental move to days only crewing, leading eventually to one or more stations being closed in Liverpool and/or Sefton.
It added that the reduction of six stations down to three will enable the service to lose 66 firefighters posts through retirement and deliver savings from reduced premises overheads.
The crewing changes and eventual station closure in Liverpool and/or Sefton will enable 22 firefighter posts to be lost through retirement and premises overheads savings.
Councillor Dave Hanratty, Chair of the Fire and Rescue Authority, said: "Merseyside has had the worst funding cuts of any fire and rescue service in the country and in 2015/16 we have to find at least another £6.5 million.
"We have reached the point where we cannot continue without reducing the number of stations we operate. We aim to deliver half the savings from support services, but the majority of our costs come from the frontline so we have to find savings there as well.
"The mergers will allow us to build better and more efficient stations in areas which recognise where our risk is. The number and distribution of stations across Merseyside has hardly changed since the 1950s while the number of incidents has reduced by more than 50% and the risk pattern has changed dramatically.
"Our current position is that Government is indicating the cuts will continue until 2020 so we have to start making plans for structural changes now."
The fire authority added that all the changes will be subject to extensive consultation with staff, representative bodies, stakeholders and the public in the areas affected by the changes.
The statement added: "The consultation will be in two stages, an open-end listening phase considering the options and a more formal second phase on the final proposals."
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