Gloucestershire fire service merger less likely after funding bid fails
MERGING Gloucestershire's fire service looks less likely after bureaucrats missed out on £150,000 to work up a case for it.
Gloucestershire County Council was considering combining the county's fire and rescue service with a neighbour, or with the ambulance service, and needed the money from the Government to investigate how it could be done – or whether to stay as it is.
Shire Hall number crunchers estimated the savings from a merger could be as high as 27 per cent, from a current fire and rescue budget of £18.3million.
But the bid for £150,000 from the Government's Transformational Challenge Award failed.
County councillor Jeremy Hilton, the Liberal Democrats' national spokesman on fire and rescue, said the service is lean already and the council shouldn't be considering a merger.
"The bid failed, because it was poorly considered and badly drafted," he said.
"The commissioning team at Shire Hall prepared it over the heads of councillors and Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service.
"It failed to meet the criteria set down by the fire minister. It failed to mention that GFRS is one of the most cost effective fire services in the country and did not mention the pioneering TriService working established in Gloucestershire.
"Proposing to merge the fire service with a mythical neighbouring fire service was ill-considered. The council should move on and continue with improving the fire cover it provides for Gloucestershire under the governance of the county council."
New ways of working could save the council between 11 and 27 per cent of what is a budget of £18.3 million now.
Will Windsor-Clive, cabinet member for fire, planning and infrastructure, said: "Our commissioners have a duty to look at how we run our business. If we got the money we would have looked at it but we are not saying we are definitely going to change the service."
Geoff Sallis, deputy chief fire officer of Gloucestershire, said no options were ruled in or out.
"We applied for Government funding to look at how Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service can keep doing a great job in future," he said.
"As with all council services, it's really important we look carefully at whether we can do things better. It didn't rule in, or rule out, any specific options. We weren't successful in the bid this time."