Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Lothian Fire chief says merger 'inevitable'

Fire engine
Image caption Mr Campbell believes three fire services would emerge from a merger

Lothian and Borders new fire chief has said a merger of the country's fire and rescue services is "inevitable."

Jimmy Campbell, who took up his post in July, believes the move is a foregone conclusion in the face of public sector cuts.

Mr Campbell laid out his vision for the future and the potential shake up required if efficiencies are to achieved.

He predicted that Scotland's eight fire services would be merged to three.

They would cover the west, south east and north.

In his first interview since taking up post, Mr Campbell said: "We don't know at this stage what cuts will be expected in services like ours but with commentators speculating on cuts from 12% to as much as 25% we know these cuts will be significant and there is no way that cannot affect how we currently do business.

"I am seeking a national approach from the fire and rescue services' chief fire officers to establish a realistic direction and course of action that fundamentally protects our frontline firefighters and maintains the quality standard of services that the people of Scotland have come to expect.

"If we look at the number of fire and rescue services in Scotland there must be a better way of doing things."

He said that in Wales services had already been reduced without apparent detriment to the core services they were required to provide by law.

"We need to start the discussion now if we are to have the time necessary to effect fundamental changes in how we continue to deliver services and deliver efficiencies at the same time," he said.

"I will be looking to work closely with other fire and rescue service chief officers and with our trade unions as it is they who will play a key part in helping us to achieve a solution."

Grampian Fire and Rescue Service, which could be combined with Tayside and Highland services under Mr Campbell's proposal, said "nothing is ruled in or out".

A brigade spokeswoman added: "Fire and rescue services will continue to work with each other and a wide range of other partners to share services and collaborate.

"Collectively we have met the efficiency targets set for us and we will now seek new and innovative ways to continue to drive down costs.

"The level of expected cuts, of around 25% over the next four years, will be a significant challenge."

A Scottish government spokeswoman said that all constructive suggestions would be listened to.

She added: "We welcome the fact that Mr Campbell and the other fire chiefs are engaging in the dialogue following publication of the Independent Budget Review.

"Scotland's budget is forecast to be cut by Westminster by £3.7bn in real terms over the next spending period - underlining the need for Scotland to secure control of our own finances."

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