Fire service merger to be considered

THE future of the county’s fire service is to be discussed by council chiefs next week.

At Monday’s meeting of Northumberland County Council’s Executive, a report to members details the five options with regards to the possible merger of the Northumberland fire service with that in Cumbria. A final decision will not be made yet to allow for the directors of finance at each council to detail the possible savings and finance involved in each option.

The different suggestions range from maintaining the status quo with two separate Fire and Rescue Service (FRS) and Authorities to the two being replaced with a standalone fire authority containing elected members from the two councils.

This latter option could encounter difficulties regarding council tax because Northumberland has a lower council tax base than Cumbria which would lead to costs being redistributed from Northumberland to Cumbria, as well as opposition from staff and the public. In the report, Dominic Harrison, CFO at Cumbria County Council, says that “the proposals are financially beneficial to both county councils” and that the sharing of a CFO could enable future sharing or a full merger.