Three quarters oppose proposal to axe one of Wrexham's full-time fire crews

Reporter:

Jonathan Grieve

Three quarters of people responding to a consultation proposing to axe one of Wrexham’s full-time fire crews are opposed to the move.

A crunch meeting to discuss the North Wales Fire and Rescue Authority’s plans to slash £1 million from its budget by 2019-20 is to be held in Wrexham on Monday.

Among the plans to save money were proposals to cut a full time crew from Wrexham, losing 24 firefighter posts in the process.

But of the hundreds of people who responded to the consultation, 76.6 per cent said no fire and rescue services should be cut and that county councils should cover all the additional costs.

And 83.4 per cent of respondents agreed that fire and rescue services in North Wales should not be cut, even if it means people have to pay more council tax to cover the cost.

In the autumn of last year, the authority conducted the public consultation entitled ‘Affordable fire and rescue services for North Wales.’

It invited anyone with an interest to give their views on how fire and rescue services should be developed in North Wales in the next few years.

People were asked to respond to the consultation either by post, email or via an online questionnaire.

The consultation closed on December 12, 2016, with a total of 346 responses received via the online questionnaire and a further 27 written responses received via email and post.

More than half of people who responded either strongly disagreed or disagreed that if the region has to make do with one less fire engine, then it would make most sense to take it away from the fire station that has the most fire engines (i.e. from Wrexham, which is the only fire station in North Wales that has three fire engines).

A report due to go before the authority at the meeting states: “Some concern was expressed that removing a wholetime fire engine from a large town like Wrexham would leave the local population vulnerable and the service unable to deal with its workload.

“The authority acknowledges the concerns in the Wrexham area, and has consistently stated that it was with great reluctance that it came to the conclusion that it would need to remove a wholetime fire appliance in order to secure the necessary savings.

“However, the number of fire engines and their location is a matter for each Fire and Rescue Authority to determine for its own area, based on known risks and affordability.

“Comparisons show that one wholetime and one retained fire engine in Wrexham would not only match the provision at Deeside and Rhyl, for example, but would also be consistent with fire cover provision elsewhere in Wales and in other towns and cities of comparable size in the United Kingdom.

“The authority has a duty to ensure that its resources are used as effectively as possible to provide affordable services for the whole of North Wales.

“This proposal would ensure that a wholetime and a retained fire engine would still be based in Wrexham, and that no community would see its fire station close.”

The report also states that it is not believed HMP Berwyn opening on Wrexham Industrial Estate would have a significant impact on the fire service’s workload.

It adds: “Some people opposed to removing a wholetime fire engine from Wrexham saw it as an unfair reduction in service in just one area, especially as the financial strategy meant that the county borough council would still be asked to contribute more to meet the annual running costs of the fire and rescue service.

”Some went so far as to suggest that service reductions should not be confined to just one county area, and that every county should take a share of service reductions.

”The authority provides fire and rescue services for the whole of North Wales. No part of North Wales is entirely or exclusively reliant on the fire resources based in its own areas.

”Fire engines and other specialist appliances routinely cross from one area to another and some services, such as the control room, are provided centrally rather than from six different locations.

”The financial contribution made by county councils is for fire and rescue services in their area, but is not limited to only the resources based within their area.

”Removing a fire engine from Wrexham would constitute a service reduction for the whole of North Wales, not just for Wrexham, but it would also mean a smaller increase in financial contributions than would otherwise be required if the authority decided not to make any service reductions.”

The meeting, which is open to the public, will be held at the Guildhall in Wrexham on Monday starting at 10.30am.

See full story in the Leader

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