Page last updated at 18:25 GMT, Thursday, 19 June 2008 19:25 UK

County fire services could merge

Hereford and Worcester, and Warwickshire Fire Services could merge if new proposals are accepted.

Warwickshire County Council's Cabinet agreed on Thursday to back further investigation into the benefits of the two services working more closely.

A review group will now look at the closer collaboration between the two and will report back in September.

The move aims to save money, but the council stressed no fire stations would close, even if a merger was proposed.

The idea was first put forward in 2007 but was put on hold after four firefighters died in Atherstone-on-Stour last November.

Council leader Alan Farnell said: "I would like to make it clear that this work does not involve looking at the closure of any fire stations it is simply to look at how Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service could work in closer collaboration or combination with Hereford and Worcestershire Fire and Rescue."

Mark Rattray, from Warwickshire Fire Brigades Union (FBU), said the union would oppose any job cuts although it would not necessarily oppose the merger.

'No reason'

He said: "I have been a firefighter for 25 years and I've seen cut backs year on year on. It's got to stop at some point.

"But I see no reason why a merged service couldn't provide the same service."

Jim Richards, from the Hereford and Worcester FBU, said that he had been told of the merger plans by his chief fire officer Paul Haden.

He said a merger could save money by cutting administration and backroom staffing levels.

"As long as there are no firefighter cuts, losses of fire stations and that the public still get the services that they're currently getting then we're not overly worried," he said.

"But the devil, as always, will be in the detail."

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