Fire Minister opens upgraded Shropshire Fire HQ

At the official opening of Shropshire's newly renovated fire HQ, left to right are: Shropshire and Wrekin Fire Authority chairman Stuart West, Fire Minister Bob Neill, Chief Fire Officer Paul Raymond and Sir Ken Knight, HM Chief Inspector of Fire Services.

The Fire Minister was in Shropshire to officially open the county’s newly renovated fire HQ.

Bob Neill MP was given a tour of the new control room - the first in the UK to open after the cancellation of the failed regional control project.

He was shown the state of the art equipment necessary for rapid mobilisation of fire engines answering 999 calls across the county.

The Minister also opened the newly renovated Shrewsbury fire station and emergency vehicle workshops vital to keep the county’s fire appliances and vehicles on the road.

They replace “dilapidated” 1970’s buildings condemned as uneconomical to repair. The existing St Michael’s Street premises have been replaced with a completely renovated and larger building identified as the most cost effective solution paid for from Government funds and efficiency savings.

“What I have seen here today has been immensely impressive. I am particularly pleased to see how quickly Shropshire has responded to our challenge to secure resilience for their Fire Control systems in light of the failed regional control projects” the Minister said.

“But what I have been most impressed by is the quality of the people who work for the fire service. You should be most proud of the skill and courage of your local firefighters.

He said he had witnessed how local taxpayers’ money, together with Government grants, had been invested to deliver an excellent service.

The Fire Minister was shown a number of demonstrations featuring the Rescue Tender team with their specialist skills and equipment, the Aerial Ladder Platform and the water rescue unit based in the town. He also met wholetime and on call firefighters from across the area.

Officers from the Fire Prevention and Community Safety teams spoke to Mr Neill about their work in preventing fires and working with a wide range of local partners in the public, private and voluntary sectors. The Minister heard how everyone at Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service had worked to identify savings to support the Government’s deficit reduction plan while delivering a high level of service.

The Fire Minister said he hoped that Shropshire would protect frontline services and continue to make sensible savings such as through flexible staffing arrangements, better sickness management, sharing back office services, improved procurement and sharing Chief Fire Officers and other senior staff.

The Minister declared the site officially open yesterday (Thursday, January 12th) by unveiling a plaque in front of 40 invited guests and 30 staff members.

Paul Raymond, Bob Neill MP and Stuart West pose in front of unveiled plaque

Fire Minister Bob Neill at the official unveiling ceremony with Chief Fire Officer Paul Raymond and Shropshire and Wrekin Fire Authority chairman Stuart West (right)

Councillor Stuart West, Chair of the Fire and Rescue Authority, said that it was a great honour to have the Fire Minister open the fire station and HQ.

“Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service is committed to providing the community with the best possible service and our new fire station, workshops and HQ is a symbol of our ambition and desire for continual improvement.”

Chief Fire Officer Paul Raymond said: “Today showcased Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service at its best, with a huge sense of pride and confidence that we are an excellent organisation focussed on delivering services local people need. It has been a fantastic day for us all.

“The opening of the new site shows that even in very difficult times the local fire and rescue service will continue to invest locally in facilities that deliver the best emergency service for local people. We have planned since 2006 to make today a reality and with prudent efficiencies over the years together with government funding we have been able to pay for the new site without long term costs for local people.”

The purpose built HQ houses vital support functions for Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service with uniform and non-uniform personnel working in finance, IT, operations support, technical services, communications and human resources. Fire Control is also based on the site.

One of the main aims when designing and building the new HQ was to ensure it was safe, environmentally-friendly and sustainable. It is fully sprinklered and has an air source heat pump heating system and top class insulation to significantly reduce its carbon footprint.

Shrewsbury architects Baart Harries and Newell designed the buildings built by Oswestry construction company Paveaways Ltd.

Mr Neill, a former barrister, was greeted by dignitaries including the High Sheriff of Shropshire Richard Burbidge, Shrewsbury Mayor, Councillor Tony Durnell, Telford and Wrekin mayor, Councillor Malcolm Smith and Councillors Keith Barrow and Kuldip Singh Sahota, the leaders of Shropshire Council and Telford and Wrekin Council.

Also attending were Director of Public Health Rod Thomson and representatives from West Mercia Police and West Midlands Ambulance Service.

13th January, 2012