‘Farcical and unfair’ call to cut fire personnel rejected


- Credit: Archant

A councillor called for fire service staff to be cut to save money during a debate over a 4p-per-week rise in tax.

Nick Wilton. Picture: North Somerset Council

Nick Wilton. Picture: North Somerset Council - Credit: North Somerset Council

Avon Fire & Rescue Service agreed to the 2.99 per cent increase last week, despite the call for jobs to be shared by it and Avon and Somerset Constabulary in Portishead.

Cllr Nick Wilton, who represents Winford, was the only councillor on the Avon Fire Authority to oppose the precept hike.

He said: “I don’t accept the premise there is nothing that can be done. An awful lot of the 125 back office staff that we currently have could be shared with another organisation.

“We narrowly avoided building a brand new facility when the decision was taken to sell Temple Back. It was a no-brainer we must coexist at police headquarters at Portishead because to spend £50million of taxpayers’ money would have been unconscionable, and fortunately that view prevailed.

“I think there are things we could do with technology to slim this organisation down, particularly when it comes to back office services, because I don’t accept the premise we must spend more than we did last year.”

But his views were rejected by fire authority chairman Don Davies.

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Cllr Davies, who represents Pill on North Somerset Council, said the ideas were ‘farcical’ and ‘very, very unfair’.

He added: “The idea the police can suddenly take over our back office function is a farcical thing to say and it is quite rude to our staff.

“Our staff will be fully justified in complaining about what you’ve said.”

Chief Fire Officer Mick Crennell said: “We have a duty to collaborate with police and ambulance and any other partners where we can benefit.

“It’s our duty to get economies of scale to get a better return on our investment.

“We are already collaborating in a lot of areas, including sharing premises, and we will continue that conversation because it’s the right thing to do.”

The fire and rescue service moved to a shared headquarters with police in Portishead’s Valley Road in 2017 after 44 years at Temple Back in Bristol.

The 2.99 per cent increase still makes the fire service’s precept the 12th cheapest in the country.