A decision on controversial plans to axe one of Wrexham’s full-time fire appliances is set to be made tomorrow.
Proposals to axe of the town’s appliances was put forward by the North Wales Fire and Rescue Authority in May 2016 in a bid to cut £1 million from its budget.
At the time it was noted that reducing the number of Wrexham’s wholetime appliances was the ‘least damaging option’. If the proposals went ahead a total of 24 firefighters jobs would also be lost.
A public consultation titled ‘Affordable fire and rescue services for North Wales’ launched in summer 2016 before concluding on December 12th.
Within the consultation four draft objectives were put forward, including: –
1. Continuing to keep people safe from Objective 1 fire in their homes
2. Taking a new approach to meeting Objective 2 the Authority’s costs
3. Protecting all our communities with Objective 3 better planning of firefighting crews
4. Exploring how we can do more things Objective 4 for our communities
Documents published ahead of the North Wales Fire and Rescue Authority’s meeting in Wrexham’s Guildhall tomorrow morning, show that a total of 346 people responded to the online survey.
Almost half of the respondents stated they were from Wrexham County Borough.
A breakdown of the responses show that 34% of participants disagreed strongly with the statement: “If we have to make do with one less fire engine, then it would make most sense to take it away from the fire station that has the most fire engines (i.e. from Wrexham, which is the only fire station in North Wales that has three fire engines).”
A further 19.1% also disagreed with the statement. 17.3% agreed with the proposals while 9.7% strongly agreed. The remaining 19.8% were neutral.
In addition to the online consultation a further 27 responses were received – including comments from five County Councils, the North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner, two responses from Members of Parliament and an Assembly Member.
Of the 27 written responses 69% disagreed with the Authority’s proposal to remove one whole-time fire engine from a 24-hour shift fire station.
Across the region there was a mixed response to the proposals from local authorities, with both Flintshire County Council and Conwy County Council supporting all four of the objectives put forward by the North Wales Fire and Rescue Authority.
Wrexham Council, although supporting two of the draft objectives put forward, stated that they are ‘vehemently opposed to any proposal to remove a fire engine from the town’.
A number of specific concerns about the proposals to axe one of Wrexham’s wholetime appliances were raised, including the expected population growth, the opening of HMP Berwyn, the size of the Wrexham Industrial Estate and issues with arson.
Commenting on the concerns, Some concern was expressed that removing a wholetime fire engine
from a large town like Wrexham would leave the local population vulnerable and the Service unable to deal with its workload.
“The Authority acknowledges the concerns in the Wrexham area, and has consistently stated that it was with great reluctance that it came to the conclusion that it would need to remove a whole-time fire appliance in order to secure the necessary savings.
“However, the number of fire engines and their location is a matter for each Fire and Rescue Authority to determine for its own area, based on known risks and affordability.
“Comparisons show that one whole-time and one retained fire engine in Wrexham would not only
match the provision at Deeside and Rhyl, for example, but would also be consistent with fire cover provision elsewhere in Wales and in other towns and cities of comparable size in the United Kingdom.
“The Authority has a duty to ensure that its resources are used as effectively as possible to provide affordable services for the whole of North Wales. This proposal would ensure that a wholetime and a retained fire engine would still be based in Wrexham, and that no community would see its fire station close.”
A debate on the proposals put forward by the authority will take place at a meeting at the Guildhall in Wrexham at 10:30am on Monday 20th March. The meeting is open to the public.
You can read the North Wales Fire and Rescue Authority’s full report on the consultation and its findings, here.