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Posted by: John Brace | 30th March 2017

The Hitchhikers Guide to the Saughall Massie Fire Station Part 1

The Hitchhikers Guide to the Saughall Massie Fire Station Part 1

                                   

photo 15 Land off Saughall Massie Road Saughall Massie 13th December 2016 SAVE OUR GREEN BELT SAY NO TO THE FIRE STATION banner

Land off Saughall Massie Road Saughall Massie 13th December 2016 SAVE OUR GREEN BELT SAY NO TO THE FIRE STATION banner



People of Saughall Massie, your attention, please.

This is Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz of the Galactic Hyperspace Planning Council.

As you will no doubt be aware, the plans for development of the outlying regions of Saughall Massie require the building of a fire station on your green belt. And regrettably, your green belt is one of those scheduled for demolition. The process will take slightly less than three of your Earth years. Thank you.

There’s no point in acting surprised about it!

All the planning charts and demolition orders have been on display at your local planning department in Wirral Council for months, so you’ve had plenty of time to lodge any formal complaint and it’s far too late to start making a fuss about it now. … What do you mean you’ve never been to Wirral Council?

Oh, for heaven’s sake, it’s only a few miles away and they have a website you know.

I’m sorry, but if you can’t be bothered to take an interest in local affairs, that’s your own lookout. Energize the demolition beams.

I don’t know, apathetic bloody village, I’ve no sympathy at all.


Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the western arm of the Wirral lies a small unregarded village called Saughall Massie.

This village has a problem which was this: most of the people in it were unhappy for pretty much of the time about the plans for a fire station on greenbelt land. Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of them involved either building it elsewhere or keeping Upton open.

And the problem remained; the planning application was refused, but revised and lots of people were miserable.

Many (apart from councillors on the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority) were increasingly of the opinion that the whole thing had been a big mistake in the first place.

And then, one Thursday, years after the first 12 week consultation on the new fire station when the residents of Greasby told the fire service what they thought of their plans to demolish their library, one journalist sitting on his own in Bidston suddenly realised what it was that had been going wrong all this time and he finally knew how the world could be made a good and happy place.

Sadly, however, before could get to a keyboard and tell anyone about it the idea was lost forever.

This is not his story.

But it is the story of the fire station in Saughall Massie and some of its consequences.

But first a journey back in time to two fictional meetings.



“I have a dream comrades, of having no Conservative MPs on the Wirral!”

*cheers*

“But to do this, we will have to blame something on Esther!”

*boos*

“and her government!”

*louder boos*

“Any ideas what we could do?”

*audience looks to each other and one brave soul answers*

“Close a fire station?”

“No, that is not bad enough comrades, we will *dramatic pause* close two fire stations!”

*audience mutters*

“That’s not going to be enough!”

“OK, then how about closing two fire stations, planning to demolish Greasby library and community centre, then giving our Labour candidate the credit for stopping the plans while blaming it all on the government!?”

*cheers all round*

“Right, any other business?”

*there’s always one*

“But if we give our candidate the credit for stopping the fire station being built in Greasby where will the new fire station go instead?”

*everone looks confused*

“Name one Conservative councillor you dislike comrades!”

“Chris Blakeley, he works for Esther McVey.”

“OK, comrades, Saughall Massie it is then!”


“What do you *expletive deleted* mean the Labour Chair of the Planning Committee voted to refuse the planning application for a fire station at Saughall Massie?”

“Err, well, she did!”

“Well, get Cllr Phil *expletive deleted* Davies to change the *expletive deleted* Chair of the *expletive deleted* Planning Committee before it gets decided again then!”

“Err, well that’s not up to Cllr Phil Davies, it’s a vote of the Labour Group of councillors each year and then of all Wirral Council councillors.”

“*expletive deleted* democracy! Aren’t we the *expletive deleted* Labour Party?”

“Yes, but that doesn’t mean we should act like it’s a dictatorship!”

“Well we *expletive deleted* don’t have any scheduled elections (apart from in Claughton) this year of councillors to Wirral Council, so why not?”

“Because it would harm the Labour Party. I thought we were supposed to be on the side of the ordinary people?”

“Not when we *expletive deleted* have a chance to blame our own decisions on the government!!!”


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Responses

  1. Reading Frank Fields colmum in the Weekly rag the other day, he was going on about the Hive thats going to open soon, for kids to do homework and sports etc, i understand this building cost £6 million to build, no idear who is going to staff it and will they get paid, but whats is the cost of running this building for electric and gas bills etc and any repairs over the course of a year, for a place that is only going to be open a few hours a days, just bloody waste of money in my book which could have gone to keeping the two fire stations open and saved taxpayers money having all these silly council meeting about building the new station in Saugal Massie

    • The Hive doesn’t officially open until next month.

      So the running costs (although there will be estimated costs of what it will cost) won’t be known until it’s been up and running for a while.

      Moving to the two fire stations at West Kirby and Upton the savings were anticipated at £883,000 a year (but only when West Kirby and Upton close), but at an estimated cost of around £4 million of a new fire station (if there was trouble selling West Kirby and Upton this would be nearer an estimate £4.5 million).

      These estimates were made back in 2014-15 and I would guess that the cost of a new fire station is now higher, which is reflected that the budget for it is now £68,000 higher than originally anticipated (but I suspect that once factors such as increases in the minimum wage, increased costs of importing supplies due to currency fluctuations following Brexit etc are taken into account that this estimate will increase).

      Station mergers elsewhere on Merseyside have ended up costing more than originally estimated. For example the Prescot fire station is costing at least £382,000 more than originally anticipated by managers.

      Building projects are also well known for delays which add to the costs.

      I would also point out that fire stations (even after planning permission is given) take time to build and the savings don’t happen until the building is finished.

  2. Brilliant bit of work John. Outstandingly good. Well done lad.

    • Well bobby47, here’s an homage to you.

      I’ll tell you what sticks in my throat. This bloody planning application.

      I know I’m treading on hallowed ground here and I fully accept I may be completely wrong, not possessed of the full facts but it seems to my brain that this planning application was turned down.

      So what happens next? Dan the Fire Man goes to another bunch of councillors and screams “safety” as loud as possible. They then scream “safety” back at him and call all sorts of bad names the councillors that refused it.

      After a lot of primal screaming and gnashing of teeth they then go on to spend another six-figure sum on anger management (submitting a revised planning application).

      So what they will all do when it gets turned down again I really don’t know! Will Dan then tell them, he would like to axe planning policies and burn red tape? Or will they give up and come up with a plan B that doesn’t involved the greenbelt?

      Or will it all take so long the councillors will just say at election time,

      “OI MISTER!”
      “NOO. The Saughall Massie fire station planning application is round, it’s staying round, and it’ll be around forever!!”

      Followed by those councillors losing at the election to someone the public see as more in tune with their wishes!

      But what do I know?

  3. And I can assure you dear John of one single thing. The source of all this costly spending programme dressed up to save us all from a dreadful death by either burning or smoke inhalation. It is to avoid financial cuts. That’s really all it is and the Fire Service are not immune from this strange and rather predictable thinking that all public services enter into once the axe looms above their heads.
    Driven by an ideology to protect their own little Empire Of Dirt, they begin to drift into areas that’ll deflect the axe in some other direction and so, a guaranteed remedy is to say ‘this old fire house is no longer fit for purpose, lives are at risk and to therefore prevent these terrible deaths and to increase the chances of your escape from the inferno that’ll engulf you and your loved ones, we need to relocate, build a new fire house and anyone who objects is someone who doesn’t value a human life.
    And that’s it! Once the new Fire House is built, the Empire Of Dirt’s future of uncertainty disappears, they’ll look to axe elsewhere and some other area of public service that ignored the chance to build another place of work gets it and gets the axe.
    And happily, because they’re all in the business of saving us from a dreadful fiery death, there’s a vast pot of money readily available to spend and spend and spend until everyone caves in, the Fire House gets built, we’re all liberated from incineration and nobody gives the matter a backward glance once its realised that the spend on legal advice, consultation and the endless hours of man made generated paperwork could have been avoided if someone had suggested, ‘let’s paint the old Fire House, do it up and ensure that our money is well spent, rather than build a bloody new one that we never really needed.

    • Councillors could easily ask the public in a referendum for a “no cuts” budget, but they [councillors] don’t think the public will vote for putting their taxes up. They [councillors] then think they would be criticised for the cost of a referendum.

      Indeed the option of keeping Upton open and not building at Saughall Massie is one that the public support in Saughall Massie.

      In fact that’s always been down as an option.

      Indeed at the last Planning Committee (where it was refused) this was given by the local councillor as a reason not to use the green belt.

      The Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service have about 600-700 firefighters and about 200-300 support staff.

      Do you really think there isn’t the potential in an organisation that large to make savings?

  4. Yes there is John, but that would mean decreasing the size of the Empire, which would in turn reduce the power of the hierarchy and thus render them less powerful than they once were. So, rather than that, they choose to build.
    Mind, once they’ve done the building, crammed people from other services in there under the banner of ‘shared services with our Partners’ and then discovered that it’s not a good fit and things ain’t quite working out the way in which it was originally intended, they knock bits of it down, build other bits on, move their Partners into other shared spaces that are equally unsuitable and round and round and bloody round it goes, and always and forever after letting the people know that it’s saved them money and they’ve learned from their mistakes.
    Course, the mistakes, which are hugely costly are never quite addressed in good time and only ever acknowledged once the original thinkers who came up with the idea in the first place are retired or have been promoted up the pole(pun intended) to create havoc to some other area of service that’s facing the prospect of cost savings and the axe.
    What do I think? Let them get on with it because, whether one likes it or not, they’ll do it anyway John.


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