MP fears for safety if fire jobs are axed

MP Shaun Woodward with firefighters at Eccleston Fire Station
MP Shaun Woodward with firefighters at Eccleston Fire Station
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Two fire stations are set to be axed and dozens of firefighter posts lost in a string of cost-slashing cutbacks.

St Helens and Eccleston Fire Stations are set to merge in a single town centre base and Whiston and Huyton Fire Stations are set to do likewise at a headquarters in Prescot.

In response, Shaun Woodward, who has previously campaigned on behalf of axe-threatened Eccleston Fire Station, told of his fears for the safety of the people of St Helens - with firefighting resources becoming increasingly stretched.

But the MP for St Helens South and Whiston admitted Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority had been left with “no choice” but to make the cutbacks, which will result in the loss of 66 firefighter posts across the region.

Mr Woodward said: “These closures show the damage that the government’s spending cuts are having on the services the public rely upon. I have very real concerns that they will make the public less safe.

“It’s important that we all continue to highlight the effect of the Government’s cuts on public services here in St Helens and I will be ensuring that I do so in Parliament over the coming months.”

Regional fire chiefs, who must meet an estimated budget shortfall of £6.5m in 2015/16 in order to balance the books, agreed the mergers last week - subject to consultation.

A fire service spokeswoman said the exact locations of the merged stations were yet to be decided and that it was impossible to pinpoint how many of the 66 job losses would affect St Helens.

Fire Authority chairman, Coun Dave Hanratty, told how Merseyside had already received the worst funding cuts of any fire and rescue service in the country.

He said: “We have reached the point where we cannot continue without reducing the number of stations we operate.

“We aim to deliver half the savings from support services, but the majority of our costs come from the frontline so we have to find savings there as well.”

He added: “The mergers will allow us to build better and more efficient stations in areas which recognise where our risk is. The number and distribution of stations across Merseyside has hardly changed since the 1950s while the number of incidents has reduced by more than 50 per cent and the risk pattern has changed dramatically.

“The Government is indicating that cuts will continue until 2020 so we have to start making plans now.”