The people of Shropshire are being urged to “have their say” about a proposed further £2m in budget cuts at Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service which will impact “front line” services.
They are invited to fill in a questionnaire and ask questions about which options they prefer to make the savings. The online Budget Reductions – Have Your Say link went live on the website this afternoon (Tuesday, October 15).
Shropshire and Wrekin Fire Authority is keen to get the public’s view along with councillors and other organisations on possible changes to the fire service in Shropshire between 2015 and 2020.
They include the possibility of closing up to four rural fire stations, the possible merger of the current Fire Control centre in Shrewsbury with Hereford and Worcestershire Fire and Rescue Service and the removal of fire engines from either Shrewsbury or Telford.
Councillor Stuart West, the Chair of the Fire Authority, said they had to ensure they could meet the pressures from the Government’s austerity measures and the reduction in the Fire and Rescue Service’s budget up to 2020.
“We are having to explore all aspects of the service we currently deliver to make sure that any changes we make will continue to meet the risks in the county and the expectations of the communities in Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin,” he said.
The challenge for the Fire Authority was how to fill a £1.9 million gap in funding forecast by 2020 on top of £3.2 million worth of reductions due to be implemented up to 2015.
Councillor West said: “So far the service has absorbed £3.2m worth of cuts by deleting firefighter posts, crewing fire engines in different ways and combining support services which have allowed it to make further cuts to the workforce, minimising the impact to front line services. A further £2m of cuts will mean that we will now have to reduce front line services.”
The Fire Authority is launching the second phase of its “2020 Process” which is seeking views from the local communities in Shropshire on the proposed changes to their Fire Service.
“Anyone who wishes to comment on the changes we are exploring should visit the Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service website and click on the Budget Reductions – Have Your Say link on the front page. This will take them to an online tool which provides information on each option and gives them the opportunity to feedback their thoughts on those options through a questionnaire. The tool also enables people to contact us and ask any questions about the possible changes.”
The tool will be available via the website until the end of December. Staff from local authorities and libraries will help people who do not have internet use, to access the website.
The Fire Authority will also meet councillors from areas likely to see an impact as a result of the proposals.
Councillor West said that as well as using the tool, members of the public are also encouraged to approach their local councillors to voice any questions or concerns they may have about the changes so that they can be raised at the meetings.
Chief Fire Officer John Redmond said the results from this phase of the process will be analysed and presented to the Fire Authority at its February meeting.
“This stage of the process is all about impact assessment. The information we collect will help the Fire Authority to decide which options it actually wants to go out and formally consult on during spring of next year.”