Merger ‘not right for Suffolk’

Concerns about cuts to Sudbury’s fire service continue to linger, despite a proposed merger of two authorities being scrapped.

Plans to merge Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service with its Cambridgeshire counterpart have been in the pipeline for some time.

But the move has now been ruled out as the savings generated would not have been as high as initially thought.

Sudbury firefighter Paul Carrington, who is also a Fire Brigades Union (FBU) member, said that although he was glad the merger had not been implemented, he still feared cuts.

“Had the merger happened, I don’t know how much it would have affected us, but I am pleased we will keep our own identity,” said Mr Carrington, from Belle Vue Road.

“The concern now is that savings will still need to be made and how that will affect firefighters in Sudbury.”

The 34-year-old, who has worked as one of 22 retained firefighters at the town’s station in Gregory Street since 2005, said the crew’s second engine had been under threat during Suffolk County Council’s last comprehensive spending review.

“I’m cautious because one of the engines could be threatened again in the next spending review in 2015,” said Mr Carrington, who also works as a full-time firefighter in Ipswich.

“We don’t want to see a decrease in services as the service we provide is good.”

A variety of issues were identified in the business case as hindering any potential merger.

These included a considerable difference between the level of reserves held by each service and inconclusive results of a public consultation which showed 49 per cent of respondents were in favour and 41 per cent against.

Sudbury mayor Jack Owen said he was happy Suffolk’s fire service would not “lose some control”.

“There were obviously difficulties and there is always concern about a merger of such a vast nature,” he said.

“I am getting sick and tired of the erosion of services for savings. Every time there are cuts, it puts the public a little bit more at risk.”

Andy Fry, chief fire officer for Suffolk, said the two services, which already share a control room in Huntingdon, would continue to look at ways in which they can work together.