Fire Service launches consultation two years after closing Halesowen fire station

Halesowen News: Chairman of West Midlands Fire Authority Councillor John Edwards. Chairman of West Midlands Fire Authority Councillor John Edwards.

CASH-STRAPPED West Midlands Fire Service is holding another public consultation about its services less than two years after closing Halesowen Fire Station.

In response to the Government reducing its grant WMFS is asking the public to help them decide which services to deliver in the future.

The public are being asked to give their verdict on ‘The Plan 2014-17’- its framework for its prevention, protection and response activities – as West Midlands Fire and Rescue Authority has announced a referendum on spending might be necessary if Government cuts continue to threaten the level of service currently provided.

Chief fire officer Phil Loach said: “We want as many people as possible to get involved in the consultation, and to help shape their fire service.”

However, a firefighter, who did want to be named, contacted the News to blast the WMFS attitude to money.

He said: "I see ridiculous amounts of tax payers money spent on all manner of needless projects.

"Like the thousands spent to replace windows that didn't need replacing at Wolverhampton, the thousands spent building or expanding buildings which then sat empty at Oldbury training facility and Brierley Hill fire station's locker room for staff they got rid of literally two months later.

"And the hundreds spent renovating or moving offices because the current one was too small for someone's ego (virtually every station in the west mids when they are appointed a new "station commander") the list goes on."

The firefighter added: "I do feel the organisation has a nerve to be asking the general public if they are willing to pay more for the service in the council tax hikes, and to give suggestions how it could better serve them.

"The average firefighter such as myself have been trying to tell them for years how to better use the money and facilities available, yet it always seems to be falling on deaf ears in either middle management or higher."

Councillor John Edwards, West Midlands Fire and Rescue Authority chairman, said: “Financially, we’re in unprecedented times. The funding we get from the Government has already been cut by £21m, which is more than a quarter of our grant.

“Further cuts in public sector budgets during the life of our plan, already outlined by Government, will have a severe impact on the fire and rescue service we currently provide. We’re already facing budget deficits of £3m and £6m in 2016/17 and 2017/18.

“The Fire Authority might choose to carry out a referendum of people in the West Midlands to allow them to have their say about the level of service they want."

The consultation runs until the end of February and for more information visit www.wmfs.net.

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