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Talks to win better deal for fire service
1:50pm Monday 28th October 2013 in News
CRUNCH talks will take place this week to try and secure better funding for Worcestershire’s fire service.
A delegation of politicians and chief fire officer Mark Yates have secured a vital meeting with Government ministers over the proposed £4.7 million of cuts to the Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service.
The talks at Westminster tomorrow, led by Councillor Derek Prodger, the fire authority chairman, will aim to wrestle back more cash to avoid the record spending reductions becoming a reality.
It comes as an online petition calling for the cuts to be reversed hit 1,150 signatures.
MPs have also been invited to the talks, which could include fire minister Brandon Lewis and was secured mainly due to the efforts of West Worcestershire MP Harriett Baldwin. At the moment, the fire service is consulting with the public over how to save the £4.7m, which includes 144 job losses over the next three years.
Proposals include closing stations in Bewdley, Broadway, Kingsland and Whitchurch and reducing the number of engines on duty from 43 to 33, including getting rid of a full-time appliance in Worcester.
In recent weeks two internet-based campaigns have been launched to try and force a U-turn, but Coun Prodger says his hands are largely tied unless ministers budge on funding levels for the service.
“I am looking forward to this meeting because it’s clear to me what we need to get is extra cash,” he said.
“Given the difficulties we face, we’ve got to go to Westminster and see what they say. We’ve got until January until the consultation runs out and in the meantime this gives us the chance to put our views across.”
The announcement of the meeting comes just days after MPs wrote to Coun Prodger to call for a rethink over the cuts.
The parliamentarians suggested the fire service should make more back office cuts, including developing closer links with the fire services in Shropshire and Warwickshire, to save money.
Mrs Baldwin said: “I hope the authority is able to find more savings to protect front line services by working with neighbouring counties to find back office savings and in Westminster we will work to secure a fairer settlement from central Government.”
Worcester MP Robin Walker said: “We’ll lobby the minister to improve the grant settlement for the service and hope the fire authority will respond positively to the challenge we now set them.”
An online petition, launched by campaigner Chris Edwards, of Bewdley, has already hit more than 1,150 signatures.
The petition says the service cuts are totally unjustified and calls for some solution to be found between the Government and fire bosses.
To sign it yourself, log on to ipetitions.com/petition/stop hwfirecuts.
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