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Fury at fire station merger bid
THE Government has been accused of “vandalism” by fire union chiefs after proposals to merge fire stations in St Helens took another step forward.
If the plans get through public consultation it will see the closure of fire stations at Parr Stocks and Eccleston with a new station to be built within the town centre ward.
The Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority approved the plans along with merging Knowsley, Huyton and Whiston into a new one in Prescot as they seek to make savings of at least £6.5 million in 2015/16.
A lengthy consultation period now follows, which will see Merseyside’s chief fire officer Dan Stephens attend public meetings in St Helens.
The fire authority stressed that the cuts are a better option than “closing stations outright”.
They admit that job losses are inevitable, but add these will be through retirement and there will be no redundancies.
On Wirral, West Kirby and Upton would be merged to a new station in Greasby.
In total 66 firefighter posts will go across Merseyside.
Councillor Dave Hanratty, chairman of the Fire and Rescue Authority, said Merseyside has been hit hardest by funding cuts.
He said: “We have reached the point where we cannot continue without reducing the number of stations which 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 per cent and the risk pattern has changed dramatically.”
Mark Rowe of the Fire Brigades Union said: “They talk about merging fire stations – but we call it vandalism.
“There is no other name for closing fire stations and sacking firefighters.
“I hope the Government can live with their consciences, especially after the dreadful events in Glasgow last weekend.
“There is no doubt that the Government is to blame for decisions taken to keep accountants happy and without regard to the safety of ordinary men and women.”
His comments were backed by Dave Watts MP, who said: “This is firmly down to the fact that they have no money.
“They have already shed lots of staff and crews have gone. They have nowhere else to go as the cuts continue.
“Eric Pickles may say they are efficiency savings but these are cuts in local authority budgets, in the police and the fire service with serious implications for people’s safety.”
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