Fire service control rooms may merge

Fire service control rooms may merge

Francis Batt

Fire service control rooms may merge

Fire service control rooms across Berkshire could soon be run jointly with neighbouring Oxfordshire.

Fire minister Bob Neill announced last week that the government had agreed to a £3.6m grant to enable the county's two fire services to merge.

The Berkshire and Oxfordshire fire rescue services have been discussing teaming up since September last year but have not yet come up with firm plans for locations or staffing levels.

A business case is expected to be ready by the summer.

Berkshire chief fire officer Iain Cox said he was optimistic a joint service could be in operation by spring 2014.

He said: "There is still a huge amount of work to be done. But now we know we have the funding in place we can continue with our plans. Individual control rooms are becoming increasingly unviable due to falling incident numbers and the consequential increase in cost per call handled."

Sharing services with Oxfordshire he said would improve services while remaining cost effective.

The change comes at a time of anxiety for Windsor people, whose own fire station in St Mark's Road is due to be sold to help fund improvements to the service in Wokingham.

A 24-hour service is expected to be maintained, using a base on the Royal Borough's depot in Tinkers Lane which the authority made available so that firefighters could remain in the town round the clock.

Negotiations about the size of the engine and crew that will stay at Windsor are still ongoing. But Windsor firefighter Michael Rowley - the Fireman's Union representative in the town - said he did not believe the proposed merging of the county fire authorities would affect this.

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