Consultation on changes to local Fire Service

A consultation into proposed changes to fire cover across St Helens is continuing and runs up to and including Sunday, October 25.

Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority (MFRA) is proposing to close Eccleston and St Helens fire stations and build a new community fire station on Canal Street, St Helens. The alternative to the merger of the stations is the outright closure of Eccleston fire station.

Both proposals include the re-designation of one of the two existing wholetime fire appliances as “wholetime retained” (where the fire appliance is staffed by off duty firefighters on a 30-minute recall).

A consultation document with information on the proposals can be found at here and an online questionnaire can be found at here.

As part of the 12-week consultation, three public meetings have been held. The public meeting were held at Cowley International College, in Hard Lane, St Helens, on Tuesday, 29th September; St Augustine of Canterbury Catholic High School, in Boardmans Lane, Blackbrook, St Helens, on Thursday, 1st October; and St Helens Town Hall, in Corporation Street, St Helens, on Tuesday, 6th October.

Three focus group meetings and a stakeholders’ meeting have also been held. A joint forum is also being held as part of the consultation, which launched on 3rd August.

Following the conclusion of the consultation, a further report will be submitted to the Authority detailing the outcomes of the consultation and any operational implications.

Chief Fire Officer Dan Stephens said: “There is still time for people who live or work across the St Helens area to take part in our consultation and we want to hear your views on the proposals. I would encourage people to join in and be a part of this consultation and submit their views on the consultation as well as attend the three public meetings.

“Over the last four years, MFRA has had to make savings of £20 million as a result of Government spending cuts and now the Authority is required to make a further £6.3 million savings in 2015/16. It is also clear the Authority will face significant further financial challenges over the course of this Parliament.

“The proposals are intended to minimise the impact of the ongoing cuts to the Authority budget and maintain as fast a response as possible across St Helens.

“I ask that anyone who may be affected by the proposals and who lives and works in the St Helens and Eccleston area, to read the consultation document, available on the Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service website , and fill in the consultation questionnaire.”

The current mean average response time to a life risk incident on the St Helens station area is 5 minutes 51 seconds. The current mean average response time to life risk incidents on the Eccleston station area is 5 minutes 40 seconds.

This is significantly quicker than the MFRA 10-minute response standard and the National mean average response time of 7 minutes 24 seconds which is only for dwelling fires and does not include road traffic collisions.

If St Helens and Eccleston fire stations closed and a new fire station was built on Canal Street then the predicted mean average run time to life risk incidents on the St Helens station area would be 5 minutes 26 seconds. The predicted mean average run time to incidents in the Eccleston station area from Canal Street would be 4 minutes 47 seconds, 1 minute 57 seconds quicker than it would be with the alternative outright closure of Eccleston fire station.

Moving to the Canal Street site and converting one wholetime fire appliance to wholetime retained would save 22 wholetime firefighter posts, which equates to a £864,000 annual saving. The firefighter posts would be lost through natural turnover and reserves would be used to avoid compulsory redundancy.

The forecast cost of a new station is £4.8 million. Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority has been successful in securing a grant from the Government to contribute towards its programme of station mergers. In the event of the merger being approved, the existing fire station sites would be sold to contribute towards the cost of the new station. The remaining balance would be met from reserves already ring-fenced for the merger process. As a result, the Authority would be able to avoid borrowing to build the proposed station.

Over the last 10 years, incidents across Merseyside have been reduced by 55%.

St Helens station area has seen a fall of 51.75% (1,888 incidents attended in 2005/6 to 911 in 2014/15). Eccleston has seen a reduction of 47.21% (841 incidents attended in 2005/6 to 444 incidents attended in 2014/15).

It is still important however to maintain the fastest response times possible as life risk incidents invariably will occur.

Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority (MFRA) is responsible for providing fire and rescue services for Merseyside’s 1.4 million residents from 25 stations across five districts. This currently includes three St Helens stations: St Helens (Parr Stocks Road), Eccleston and Newton-le-Willows.

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