A fierce debate is raging over plans to merge fire services in Dorset and Wiltshire. The fire services need to save millions of pounds because grants from the Government are being cut. Both had agreed it was the best way to save money. But now Wiltshire's calling for a re-think after new fire authority bosses were voted in.
Two thirds of firefighters in both Dorset and Wiltshire are only called when they're needed. But even this pay as you go approach isn't enough say the fire services to cope with continuing cuts in grants from the Government. So now the residents of both counties are going to be asked whether they think merging Dorset's and Wiltshire's Fire Services is a good idea, because their chief officers believe it is the best solution.
Dorset currently has around £30 million to spend, Wiltshire around £25 million. But both expect that between 2010 and 2019 their grants from the government will have halved, meaning each has to save millions of pounds.
They're turning to each other for a rescue because, as well as being neighbours, they're similar in size and the geography and populations are closely matched. But not enough everyone is enthusiastic. Wiltshire's new fire authority is now asking for more time to think about other options. And the MP for North Wiltshire is fiercely opposed.