This non-devolved service has seen its budget frozen by the UK coalition government for the past three years. The document outlines plans to keep the service at the same level of cover (without cuts) by increasing the budget from all unitary authorities across the North by £1 per head of population. Unless Council Tax is increased, the following cuts will come into play to achieve £3.3 million of savings:
• close 7 retained fire stations, and therefore permanently shed 100 firefighter posts AND• remove one wholetime fire engine from service in Wrexham (the only fire station in North Wales that has two), and therefore permanently shed 28 firefighter posts
AND• remove the retained fire appliances and therefore permanently shed 100 firefighter posts from the wholetime fire stations in Holyhead, Caernarfon, Bangor, Llandudno, Colwyn Bay, Rhyl, Queensferry and Wrecsam, leaving just one fire engine on each station.
There is a huge impact if these cuts go ahead in Wrecsam and the other stations across the north. At present there are three appliances (one retained) and 10/15 personnel can attend a major incident or split to attend three separate incidents. There would be a single appliance and just five personnel covering from Chester to Johnstown (or even further) and from Mold to Penley - a massive area for 1 appliance.
Councils are already cutting their own services - as any casual reader of this blog will know, Wrecsam Council is proposing to axe key frontline services from next April. It's unlikely they will be able to find additional funding for the fire service.
The consultation is open until 9th December and the Fire Authority will meet soon after that to decide the fate of NWFRS once they have been told by the unitary authorities if they will pay up the money needed to stand still.
Plaid Cymru in Wrecsam was out in support of the Fire Brigade Union's recent strike over pensions recently (see photo below) and will continue to fight shoulder to shoulder with firefighters to ensure a decent service.