29 July 2014

A comprehensive consultation to decide whether to merge the Wiltshire and Dorset Fire & Rescue Services began this month. 

Residents of Wiltshire and Dorset are being asked to vote on plans to combine both forces, which each fire authority believes is the only way to save the necessary millions, without cutting jobs and reducing frontline services.

The authorities have said that if the situation continues as it is, then by 2017 the Wiltshire service could be facing a £4.2m deficit, and Dorset £3.7m.

Between now and 20 October, local people will be able to have their say on a number of options, including closer working with local authorities and the police, through to a complete merger.

In both counties, residents are able to access further information and complete an on-line questionnaire, by visiting their local council and fire authority websites. Paper copies will also be available at libraries and council offices throughout the consultation period, and consultation forums will be held with the public, businesses and the voluntary organisations.

In addition, a random selection of 12,000 households across both Wiltshire and Dorset will receive the questionnaire directly, through the post. 

Simon Routh-Jones, Chief Fire Officer of Wiltshire Fire & Rescue Service, said: “We are keen to know what local people think about our options to strengthen our fire and rescue service. We have a number of potential ways forward including a potential merger with Dorset Fire Authority. We are consulting widely on this important issue and we would encourage any views as no decisions have yet been made.”

Darran Gunter, Chief Fire Officer of Dorset Fire and Rescue Service said: “Dorset Fire and Rescue Service delivers essential life changing and lifesaving services. Whilst we face a challenging financial future, we are keen to encourage people to contribute to our consultation exercise. We want to ensure we explore every possibility to transform our Service but also help protect our essential frontline activities. We have a number of potential options, key to which is whether we become a larger fire and rescue service and how much further we work with our local councils.”

If the merger goes ahead, it is thought that the newly formed organisation would become the fourth-largest combined fire authority in England, outside of London.

For more information