Fire stations in Merseyside could merge to save money
Merseyside's fire authority is considering merging some stations in a bid to save £9.5m.
Senior officers believe mergers are a better option than closing stations. They have blamed the move on government grant cuts scheduled for 2015 onwards.
They will ask for detailed plans to be drawn up to merge stations in Wirral, Knowsley and St Helens.
The Fire Brigades' Union said the loss of fire cover "is something we cannot tolerate".
The Wirral plan could see West Kirby and Upton stations merging at Greasby.
The proposals in Knowsley and St Helens include merging Huyton with Whiston, Eccleston with St Helens Parrs Stock Road, or Eccleston with Whiston.
"Since 2010, the authority has had to deliver savings of £20m," said Merseyside's chief fire officer Dan Stephens. "We've absolutely sought to avoid the closure of stations.
"What we've asked the authority to consider, in the context of cuts of around another £9.5m for 2015 through to 2017, [is] we're going to have to reduce the number of fire engines we have."
'Worst funding cuts'
He said only three stations now had more than one fire engine. They will now work on the detail of the options which make the most operational sense.
Les Skarratts, regional secretary of the Fire Brigades' Union said: "We fully understand the drastic cuts have led to real difficulties for fire and rescue authorities.
"We call on the fire authorities to see a way through this issue as quickly as possible for the benefit of the people they serve."
Dave Hanratty, Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority chairman, said they had experienced the "worst funding cuts of any fire service in the country".
"We recognise that communities have an affiliation with their fire stations, but we have reached the point where we cannot continue without reducing the number of stations we operate," he said.
He said the number and location of stations across Merseyside had remained "largely unchanged since the 1950s", while the number of call-outs had reduced by half.
The population of Merseyside has fallen from a peak of 1.65 million in the 1950s to around 1.35 million now.
Once plans have been approved, the fire authority will consult local people.