03:00PM, Friday 21 April 2017
Wargrave Fire Station was given a temporary reprieve on Tuesday as the Fire Brigades Union called on the Berkshire fire service to lobby central government to end its ‘ideological driven austerity’.
The station was at risk of closure as the authority looks to make savings, which are needed due to Government funding cuts.
Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service (RBFRS) needs to save £2.4m by April 2020 to balance its budget.
Seven options for savings plans had been tabled and put out to public consultation between December and March. They included the potential closure of Wargrave’s station.
In a meeting fraught with political point-scoring after the General Election announcement earlier in the day, members agreed to option one in the original service redesign consultation which would see three stations remotely managed: Wokingham Road from Caversham Road, Langley from Slough, and Theale from Whitley Wood.
The Retained Support Unit would be disestablished and two retained duty stations would be closed: Pangbourne and Wargrave.
This option was ranked as ‘most preferred’ by 42.91 per cent of respondents.
However, an amendment tabled by West Berkshire councillor Emma Webster (Con) was passed that would see Wargrave saved if the £168,000 cost of running the station can be saved elsewhere and the station can increase its availability to 60 per cent over the next 12 months – data from the last five years put it at just 2.4 per cent.
Chez Annets, from Kings Acre, the lead petitioner who spoke on behalf of residents in the village, welcomed the decision. She said: “I’m very pleased. Now we have to do our best to get the staff together.”
Tregear Thomas, from the Fire Brigades Union, described the option as the ‘lesser of all evils’ and said the cuts would have a ‘regrettable impact on both public and firefighter safety’.
He added: “We urge the fire authority to lobby central government to end its ideologically driven austerity.”
Despite this, RBFRS chairman Cllr Colin Dudley (Con, Bracknell Forest) said: “This has passed the baton back to the people of Wargrave; now it [the station] needs to be useful to RBFRS.”
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