Wednesday, March 28, 2012
CAMBRIDGESHIRE and Suffolk fire services could be merged in order to protect front line services against the continuing impact of budget cuts.
The two services took a first step towards merging in October when the Cambridgeshire and Suffolk call centres were brought under one control room roof in Huntingdon, saving a total of £800,000
Talks about a full merger of the two services will take place on Friday (March 30) at a meeting of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Fire Authority.
Suffolk County Council cabinet members have already agreed to review the governance of its fire service to “safeguard front line services, while reducing management and support costs”.
Cambridgeshire’s fire authority is also doing the same, and a merger is one of the options.
Neil Newberry, assistant chief fire officer for Cambridgeshire, said: “We have an obligation to make long-term plans in order to protect the front line service that we provide to the public. As part of these plans we are exploring a number of options that have the possibility to make large-scale savings over the next decade.
“Merging the service fully with Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service is just one of these options.”
Mark Hardingham, deputy chief fire officer for Suffolk, added: “To protect frontline services and minimise costs the service is considering a number of different options from increased collaboration through to a potential voluntary merger with another fire service.
“This work is at a very early stage and no decisions have yet been taken, nor will they be without thorough public consultation in due course.”
How much money the merger could save is not yet known, but it was described as “a lot of money, otherwise we wouldn’t look at it”. Similarly, the number of potential jobs losses a merger would cause is also unknown, the services said.
Kevin Napier, Cambridgeshire secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, told The Hunts Post that the union was monitoring the situation.
He said: “We will look at the impact on jobs and training, as the Suffolk service has coastal rescue capabilities, which as a land-locked county we have never had to deal with.”
He said: said: “We will look at the impact on jobs and training, as the Suffolk service has coastal rescue capabilities, which as a land-locked county, we have never had to deal with.”
The merger would be the second of its type in England. after Devon and Somerset merged its services in 2007 to become the sixth largest in the country with 85 fire stations and 2,300 staff.
Huntingdon MP Jonathan Djanogly added: “I am keen for Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service to explore the merger as a means of removing the potential impact on front line services of reductions in their budgets.”
The Cambridgeshire Fire Authority looks set is set to tell the fire service to investigate the merger at in a meeting on Friday’s meeting. An i at their Huntingdon headquarters.
It’s expected the initial report will take about a month to complete and would decide if a due diligence report for the fire authority to approve in May, and a business case for the merger should be designed over the summer.
If there is a sound business case, a before a public consultation would take place around November this year.
The Government would need about around 12 months to allow the creation of a new combined fire authority/service meaning it would be April 2014, at the to pass through Parliament with the earliest, for a combined service to begin.
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