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05 November 2014
Plans to merge Dorset Fire and Rescue Service with its Wiltshire and Swindon neighbours were agreed unanimously by Dorset Fire Authority at a meeting last night (4th November), following an extensive public consultation.
It is thought that the full merger is likely to save Dorset £6m a year by 2017-18.
Chief Fire Officer Darran Gunter said the service needed to make savings as it was facing an 8.4% reduction in government grants next year, and a further reduction of 5.5% the year after.
He said the merger could see the services save between £5.3million and £6.7million combined, with £2.7million coming from the “unique fire-to-fire relationship” between the services, although 20 staff from the “back office” would be made redundant following the merger.
The plan would have to be agreed by government before a single combined fire authority could be created. If agreed, the two services would also be awarded a £5.5 millions transformation grant for the merger to help with the transition into a combined authority.
Mr Gunter said: “It's important to say that it is not simply a cost-cutting exercise, but it's about saving front line services, which was one of the criteria given to me by the DFA."
Mr Gunter also said retained firefighters currently utilised by the service would not lose jobs, and the number of retained firefighters could increase.
He said: “85% of crew from fire engines are retained and 65% of our total operational workforce is retained; we are very much a pay as you go service.
Members of the Wiltshire and Swindon Fire Authority attended the meeting and its management committee will meet next week to make their decision on the potential merger.
Wiltshire and Swindon Combined Fire Authority acts as the overall governing body for the fire and rescue service and has 13 members - nine from Wiltshire Council and four from Swindon Borough Council.
Dorset Fire Authority consists of 15 members appointed by the three constituent authorities of Dorset County Council, Bournemouth Borough Council and the Borough of Poole.
If it is given the go-ahead at the meeting, the two services will submit a combination order by the end of the year and it is hope the new fire authority would be in full operation on April 1, 2016.