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Posted by: John Brace | 29th September 2014

Councillors to decide soon on starting 12 week consultation on closure of West Kirby and Upton fire stations

Councillors to decide soon on starting 12 week consultation on closure of West Kirby and Upton fire stations

                                                   

Merseyside Fire and Rescue crew 2nd September 2014

Merseyside Fire and Rescue crew 2nd September 2014

A key meeting of the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority will decide on Thursday 2nd October 2014 whether to consult on the closure of Upton and West Kirby fire stations (on the Wirral). Fire officers are asking councillors (which includes four Wirral Council councillors) to agree on consultation on the closure plans.

If politicians agree to a consultation it will run from the 3rd October 2014 for twelve weeks.

One of the more controversial aspects to this closure plan is it involves building a new fire station on Frankby Road, Greasby on a piece of land now owned by Wirral Council (used for a library, children’s centre (there is a current consultation on closure of these run by Wirral Council), community centre and other uses.

Negotiations between Wirral Council and Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority have been ongoing for some time. If the consultation went to plan and the other two fire stations closed, the site on which the library, community centre and children’s centre would be cleared. In its place a new fire station, library and community space would be built. Indicative floor plans might be available by the date of the meeting on Thursday.

Agreement in principle to a lease from Wirral Council to Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority has been given by Wirral Council officers, but no action will take place until the consultation has taken place.

After the consultation, a further report will come back to the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority in order for a decision to happen. However closing two fire stations will lead to an increase in response times. There will however be a saving in salaries (of about £900,000 a year) by having one fire station instead of two.

Building a new fire station at Greasby will cost about ~3.45 million, however this could be offset by selling the land that Upton and West Kirby fire stations are now on. Mersey Fire and Rescue Authority is hoping to get a DCLG grant of £1.5 million towards the cost of building the new fire station and will hear back from DCLG on that towards the end of the year.

Any difference will be met from reserves built up in part by a underspend in last year’s budget. The capital costs of the project (appendix H) are being kept secret for commercial reasons (whether this is the Fire Authority itself, DCLG and/or a third-party is a little unclear).

The report and nine out of its ten appendices can be found on the Fire Authority website.

Wirral Council now have four representatives on Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority. These are Labour (3) Cllr Denise Roberts, Cllr Jean Stapleton and Cllr Steve Niblock and Conservative (1) Cllr Lesley Rennie.

Currently the makeup of the committee that will make a decision on Thursday in Bootle comprises up of 16 Labour councillors, 1 Lib Dem councillor and 1 Conservative councillor.

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Responses

  1. John You mean a Wirral CON-sultation!

    • There are many consultations involving Wirral! 🙂

      However yes, both Wirral Council and the Mersey Fire and Rescue Authority will “consult”. However the latter is somewhat better at consultations than the former is. 😉

      Consultation as I’m sure you know is a legal requirement before reaching a decision.

      For example the fire station closures consultation would involve staff, unions, Wirral people, politicians, others et cetera.

      The truth is though that consultation responses are then supposed to reported back to the decision makers to inform (or modify) the decision they make.

      That however is the bit that usually proves controversial. Politicians often have lines to trot out at this stage such as:

      a) not enough people responded to the consultation
      b) there were a low number of responses
      c) although a majority of responses were against our plans this can be mitigated by X, Y and Z

      and the most interesting one

      d) there are more politicians deciding this decision than consultation responses, therefore the consultation responses don’t really count at all as there are more of us here who actually have a completely different opinion as to what should be done to the consultees.

  2. […] Councillors to decide soon on starting 12 week consultation on closure of West Kirby and Upton fire …. […]

  3. Let me get this straight in order to save £900 thousand from firemens wages they need to spent £3.5 million on a new station!

    • Yes, but I will point out that they’ll need to keep the two new existing fire stations open until the third one is built so they can close the other two.

      Also they are hoping that they won’t have to pay the whole £3.5 million and that DCLG will award them a grant of £1.5 million towards the £3.5 million for the new station.

      £3.5 million is from a capital budget, the ~£900,000 saving will be from the revenue budget.

      Of course if they do have to borrow all of the £3.5 million to build the new station and the grant application to DCLG is turned down, this will probably cost them around £315,000 in interest payments a year. However they do have plenty in reserves which may avoid the need to borrow it.

  4. It frees up the land in West Kirby to be devloped

    • Well that’s only if the site gets planning permission for something else than a fire station. I’m not sure what use class a fire station falls into and what other uses in that class are allowed without requesting planning permission for a change of use.


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