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FIRE MERGER BACKED BY COUNCIL CABINET

Controversial plans to create a combined fire authority (CFA) for the Isle of Wight and Hampshire have been unanimously backed by the Isle of Wight Council’s Cabinet tonight (Thursday).

Members of the Cabinet have voted in support of creating a new authority, which will be responsible for fire and rescue services on the Island and in Hampshire, including Portsmouth and Southampton.

The plans have been cautiously approached by many, with fears that such a merger could eventually lead to changes in vehicles, stations and methods used across the Isle of Wight.

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The Island’s senior fire officer, Howard Watts, said:

“The combined fire authority will build on the successful partnership already established between the Hampshire and Isle of Wight fire and rescue services.

“It will enable us to have a simpler governance process and provide access to more resources across both counties.

“The recent inspection by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate demonstrated we are safe and efficient on the Island and this decision will enable us to further improve what is already an excellent service.”

Tonight’s decision – members of the Hampshire Fire Authority also voted unanimously in favour of the plans earlier today – followed a 12-week public consultation.

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Views were received from staff in both services and people across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.

Councillor Tig Outlaw, Cabinet member for public protection, said:

“We already share many aspects of the services with Hampshire and these were outlined in the recent report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate.

“The decision to move towards a combined fire authority will bring us even closer together, making us more resilient, alongside the other operational benefits it will bring.

“Ultimately this is about ensuring our fire and rescue service continues to keep people safe, both now and in the future.

“We will, of course, expect there to be proper and effective scrutiny of the work of a new combined fire authority.”

The move also follows the announcement of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight’s new deputy chief fire officer, Steve Apter, who worked in the Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue for more than 25 years.

The final decision to create a new CFA rests with the Home Secretary, which is not expected to be made until the Autumn.


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