Outwell station ‘could be added’ to Norfolk closure risk list, meeting told
Another fire station may be added to the list of those at risk of possible closure by funding cuts because of difficulties in raising a crew there, service chiefs say.
Earlier this month, a Norfolk County Council working group set out how fire services could be affected if budget cuts of up to 25 per cent are imposed.
The report suggested that as many as 11 fire stations across the county, including West Walton, may have to close in the worst case scenario.
However, a parish council meeting in Heacham, the home of another of the stations potentially at risk, was last night told that the station in Outwell may be added to the list of those at risk of closure, instead of West Walton.
Roy Harold, Norfolk’s deputy chief fire officer, said the site would be considered because of a lack of personnel there that meant there was often not a full crew to respond to emergency calls.
The revelation also came as service chiefs revealed that a council tax rise of as little as 50 pence a week could maintain the service in its current form.
Mr Harold said the county council, under whose management the fire service operates, had to find at least £110 million in savings over the next three years, the equivalent of 15 per cent of the authority’s budget.
He said the service was already the cheapest in the country, something he did not see as a “badge of honour.”
Asked by parish council chairman Michael Williamson how much extra cash was needed to maintain the service in its current form, Mr Harold said a rise of around 50 pence a week in council tax bills would fill the funding gap.
And Mr Williamson asked: “Why aren’t the council considering putting the council tax up by 50 pence per week and we can all sleep safely in our beds?”
But, answering suggestions officials wanted to close the station, Mr Harold insisted: “We’re not doing this by choice.”
Tim Edwards, the brigade’ area manager for West Norfolk, added: “There isn’t a done deal. I hope it doesn’t go that far.”
Final proposals on the future of the fire service are expected to be published next month.
And Mr Edwards said they needed the public to show it wanted the service to be maintained in order to help strengthen the argument against cuts during the public consultation that will follow publication of the proposals.
Mr Williamson said: “Oh we will, don’t worry.”