Fire chief optimistic over funding cuts dispute

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Fire chiefs are optimistic that they will hear by Christmas whether they have been successful in securing more government funding.

Proposed £4.7m cuts to Hereford and Worcester Fire Service's budget over the next three years would see 140 jobs lost and four stations closed.

Chief Fire Officer Mark Yates held talks with Fire Minister Brandon Lewis this week to discuss proposals to avoid the cuts.

He said "good progress" had been made.

'Financial plight'

Mr Yates, who was joined for the talks in Westminster by Fire Authority chairman Derek Prodger, said: "I think we made good progress and that our financial plight is now on the minister's radar.

"The funding we receive works out at about £14 per head of population, compared to the national average of £22.

"The more money we get from central government, the less cuts we have to make. It is as simple as that."

An online petition against the cuts has so far gathered more than 1,100 names of support.

Speaking about cuts to the fire service, Mr Lewis said: "Our latest review is clear that over the past year nationally the number of fire fatalities, fire casualties and dwelling fires have fallen by 6%, yet the review was clear that some authorities continue to spend to budget, rather than according to the risks they face.

"As the review showed, if those authorities spending above the average found ways to reduce their spending to the national average, it could save nearly £200m a year."

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