Firefighters' union warns: 'Merging fire and rescue services will not improve service'
AN idea to merge Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service with Avon will not improve service to the public, says the firefighters' union.
Fire chiefs are looking at ways of saving money by bringing the two forces together.
The Devon and Somerset service needs to find £5.5million of savings over the next two years to meet a shortfall in government funding.
It hopes cuts such as reducing the number of full-time engines in Torquay will help it over that period.
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But the financial difficulties will carry on beyond that and a merger is seen as a possible long-term solution.
Initial talks between the two authorities have already begun with a view to a full merger.
The Fire Brigades' Union says 'bigger is not better' for the public.
Phil Jordan, FBU regional secretary for the south west, said: "Bigger is not necessarily better for the public or for firefighters.
"This merger is a diversion from the main issue, which is central government cutbacks to funding the fire and rescue service.
"Devon and Somerset only merged six years ago, yet it already plans to make cuts to one in five frontline firefighter jobs.
"Clearly the previous merger has not protected frontline services."
Cllr Mark Healey, chairman of Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Authority, said: "Working with Avon Fire and Rescue Service could provide real opportunities for improving public safety.
"We recognise the fire and rescue service has to change and, like others, faces an uncertain financial future.
"The government direction is clear and our times of austerity are not behind us.
"Working with another fire and rescue service may help reduce our costs, while continuing our aim to improve or maintain public safety."
To take part in the consultation on proposals to axe a full-time crew at Torquay fire station log on to www.dsfire.gov.uk