The people of Shropshire are being asked to give their views on major cost cutting plans for Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service at a series of public meetings being held across the county in July.
The public can question fire chiefs and members of Shropshire and Wrekin Fire Authority about plans to move Shrewsbury’s fire control and merge it with a larger 999 control centre outside the county saving £300,000 a year.
“We want the people of Shropshire to give us feedback about what they think of the proposals,” said Assistant Chief Fire Officer Andy Johnson.
“It is an opportunity for members of the public, local councillors and representatives to ask questions about the proposals to fire authority members and senior officers.”
Meetings lasting about 90 minutes will be held from 6.30pm at fire stations in Ludlow on July 9; Market Drayton July 14; Oswestry July 15; Bridgnorth July 21; Telford Central July 22 and at Shrewsbury fire HQ on July 23. People who wish to attend a public meeting are asked to register at Shrewsbury fire HQ on 01743 260200 before the event.
Known over the years for being “efficiency conscious,” Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service must continue to save another £900,000 over the next six years on top of £3.2m already cut since 2010.
Firefighter numbers are continuing to be cut through natural wastage with an extra £400,000 in savings due to be made if proposals for shift changes, which will further reduce numbers, are introduced. Support staff are also due to be cut.
Recognised as one of the best run brigades in the UK, the service receives 5,000 calls a year and has been vastly streamlined since 2005 including a recruitment and staff pay freeze in 2010, outsourcing services to reduce costs and borrowing reduced.
Previous cost cutting plans to close four rural fire stations were scrapped after public opposition.
“We want to provide the excellent service that the Shropshire public expects but for less money,” said Mr Johnson.
An online questionnaire at www.shropshirefire.gov.uk is available for people to post their views on the possible merger of Shrewsbury’s fire control and on other plans for the service.
There are fears of losing vital local knowledge in directing police, fire and ambulance to an emergency from a large control centre where 999 operatives do not know the area.
But with IT advances, it should be possible to continue to deliver an excellent service from a single merged control centre, said Mr Johnson.
“We are keen to hear if the people of Shropshire agree,” he added.