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Budget cuts mean Wirral will lose three fire engines warns chief officer
WIRRAL is set to lose three fire engines as devastating Government cuts make their mark - warns the county's chief fire officer.
Merseyside’s fire authority passed a budget on Tuesday that will mean all but two stations across the county will have just one fire engine based there.
The £10m worth of savings come as Government grants are cut for the next two years and will see around 150 jobs facing the axe from the service.
Around 57 support roles will go while 90 frontline firefighter posts will become non-existent over a period of three years through retirement rates, which will result in the number of engines being eventually slashed.
Wallasey, Birkenhead and Bromborough fire stations are all set to lose one appliance each as part of the changes.
Chief fire officer Dan Stephens warned that the reduction in engines would add an extra two and a half minutes onto the time taken for a second engine to reach an emergency but insisted the plan was the “least worst” option.
He said: “As I said last week, this was the least worst option under circumstances and I made the point to councillors that I would not make these recommendations if I didn’t need to.
“But we are required to deliver £10m of savings over two years and we can’t do that without having some impact on operational response. Losing appliances across the county will of course have an impact but it was the least worst option when put against losing 10 fire stations.
“I am confident though that we will still have excellent response times when compared with other parts of the country.”
As part of the budget, the authority gave the go-ahead for a 2% rise in the council tax precept following four years of reduced Government grants.
However in a bid to step up response in West Kirby, Merseyside Fire and Rescue plan to consult on increasing the number of people working there.
The current system sees firefighters based at nearby accommodation during the evenings when they are on call but the changes would mean the station would be crewed round the clock.
Speaking after the meeting, Labour councillor Steve Niblock, who sits on the authority, said certain “difficult” decisions had to be made.
He told the Globe: “We had some very difficult decisions to make because of the cuts imposed on us by the Government and none of our members are happy with the decision.
“But we were forced into by the cuts and we took advice from the chief fire officer because he is the expert in this matter.”