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4 November 2014, 13:06
Dorset's Fire Authority has voted in favour of merging the service with Wiltshire's.
It's claimed it'll save nearly £6 million, with both counties hit by government cuts. Critics say the move could put lives at risk but bosses insist frontline services would be maintained.
Wiltshire's authority still needs to approve it next week.
During the extra-ordinary meeting of the DFA responses to a 13 week public consultation were considered. Eight residents' forums, one business forum and one volunteer sector forum have been held in Dorset throughout the consultation period.
The consultation provided three options to respondents for the future of Dorset Fire and Rescue Service:
- Dorset Fire Authority to stay independent and increase collaboration with Bournemouth Borough Council, Dorset County Council and the Borough of Poole.
- Dorset Fire Authority to stay independent and increase collaboration with Wiltshire & Swindon Fire Authority while also collaborating with Bournemouth Borough Council, Dorset County Council and the Borough of Poole.
- Dorset Fire Authority to merge with Wiltshire & Swindon Fire Authority to create a single Combined Fire Authority while also collaborating with Bournemouth Borough Council, Dorset County Council, the Borough of Poole, Wiltshire Council and Swindon Borough Council.
The results of the resident's forums show that option three was the most popular choice by an overwhelming majority.
Data from the questionnaires sent to libraries, parish and town councils, fire stations and other public buildings together with the on-line questionnaire show the majority preferenced option three above options one and two.
The Wiltshire and Swindon Fire Authority will meet on Tuesday 11 November to make their decision.
Chairman of Dorset Fire Authority, Cllr Rebecca Knox said:
"I am delighted that members have unanimously supported the proposed combination. We have a fantastic fire and rescue service in Dorset and I know the authority wants to do whatever they can to ensure the Service continues to keep the communities of Dorset safe. DFRS's advice and support reaches out to many vulnerable groups and I am particularly proud of our work with young people, protecting future generations.
"DFA members and I know that this great work will continue if we combine with Wiltshire and Swindon. Although this decision does not solve all our financial pressures, it gives us a superb opportunity to continue to provide you with a great service, which we can only do with larger financial savings. I am very appreciative of the time given by members of the community to have their say in the consultation. It was extremely important to the authority to have the views of the people it serves when making this decision."
Chief Fire Officer Darran Gunter said:
"I am very pleased that Fire Authority members have agreed to a potential combination with Wiltshire and Swindon Fire Authority. The potential budget deficit faced by Dorset Fire and Rescue Service in 2017/18 ranges between £2.3M and £3.2M. The potential combination with Wiltshire Fire and Rescue means savings of between £4M and £6M. I am passionate about protecting front-line services and providing the best fire and rescue service possible for Dorset.
"I am extremely grateful to the members of our communities who took time to participate in the consultation. If we have a positive outcome from the Wiltshire and Swindon meeting next week, my officers and staff will work very closely with their Wiltshire counterparts to ensure a safe, strong and sustainable fire and rescue service for the whole community."
Members of the Wiltshire and Swindon Fire Authority will make their decision on the potential combination next week. If they also vote for the proposal then a combination order will be submitted to government in the coming weeks. The intention would be for the new combined fire authority would come into being from 1 April 2016.