It is now less than three months until the new Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service comes into being.
As of 1 April 2016, the local authority areas of Bournemouth, Dorset, Poole, Swindon and Wiltshire will be served by one combined Fire and Rescue Service with 50 fire stations.
Since the decision was made in December 2013 to pursue combination, a huge amount of work has been carried out, and the two existing Fire Authorities of Dorset and Wiltshire & Swindon have made a number of significant decisions, including:
- The formal agreement to combine, made in November 2014;
- The appointment of Darran Gunter as Chief Fire Officer (Designate) for the new Service;
- The bringing together of the two Control rooms into one Service Control Centre, which has been operating from Potterne in Wiltshire since August this year;
- Securing funding from the Government for transition costs and a new Safety Centre, which has a preferred location on the Wiltshire/Swindon border;
- Agreement to base the new Service at a strategic hub within the Five Rivers Health and Wellbeing Centre in Salisbury; and
- Approval of the new Service name and branding.
Members of the public may have already seen the new Service badge and name appearing on fire engines and other vehicles. This roll-out will continue between now and the end of March, together with a gradual introduction of new signage on fire stations and other Service buildings.
Chief Fire Officer (Designate) Darran Gunter said: “We have seen a significant amount of hard work by staff and Elected Members in both Dorset and Wiltshire as we move towards combination. What has been achieved to date is tremendous, and there is still much to be done before the new Service comes into being on 1 April.”
He added: “We are currently going through the emotional, and often difficult, process of matching our existing staff to posts within the new organisation. This challenge is even greater when you consider that we still all have the ‘day job’ of keeping our communities safe. I am incredibly proud of how everyone has dealt with this difficult time of change.
“We recently learnt that our Government funding will be reduced by a further 30% over the next four years. This combination will provide the best means of protecting and, where possible, strengthening the 24/7 frontline prevention and protection services that we provide to communities across Dorset and Wiltshire.”
Cllr Rebecca Knox, chairman of Dorset Fire Authority, and Cllr Christopher Devine, chairman of Wiltshire & Swindon Combined Fire Authority, said: “We are confident that the new Fire and Rescue Service will allow us to maintain the high quality emergency response and public safety activity that our communities rightly expect from us.
“We are very proud of our track record with prevention, and this is something we want to develop further as we move forwards.
“Fire Authority members have worked closely with senior officers to develop the new Service, and we are exploring ways of developing even more effective partnerships with local authorities and the other emergency services. We know that the last two years have been challenging for staff across both existing Services, and we would like to put on record the thanks of all Elected Members for the hard work, dedication and professionalism of all our personnel.”