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Concerns expressed over possible closures of fire stations in Gwynedd

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A COUNCIL has expressed deep concerns over proposals that would see fire stations in tourist hotspots shut.

Gwynedd Council has written to North Wales Fire and Rescue Service as part of a public consultation over a shake-up of emergency cover in North Wales.

Three different options have been put forward by the fire service as it looks to improve emergency cover in rural areas in Corwen, Dolgellau and Porthmadog.

One option would see full-time firefighters put on duty during the day in Corwen, Dolgellau and Porthmadog.

This option would not see job losses, but would lead to every North Wales household paying £20.36 more than they do now.

The second option would be the same as the above, but one of three fire engines based in Wrexham would be taken away, with 22 firefighter jobs lost – to make savings of around £1.1m.

With this option, each household would pay £16.63 more.

The final option would be the same as option two, but with the closures of Llanberis, Beaumaris, Abersoch, Cerrigydrudion and Conwy fire stations, with the loss of 36 full-time firefighters and 38 on-call firefighters. This option would see taxpayers pay £12.22 more than now.

In response to the proposals, Gwynedd Council said it firmly opposed the third option.

They said: “In this respect, we support the Chief Fire Officer’s statement which has already indicated that implementing this option would go against her professional advice.

“Closing two on-call stations within the county would be a huge loss and, in the council’s opinion, would undermine the aim of being able to respond promptly to emergency calls at some locations in Gwynedd.

“This is particularly true when you consider that the greatest pressure on the Service is in the late afternoon and early evening at which times it is more likely to have on-call staff available to respond to the calls received.”

Proposals for day-staffed fire stations in Porthmadog and Dolgellau were welcomed by the council, but said this should not come at the expense of closing stations at Abersoch and Llanberis.

However, the council said it was concerned about the additional financial burden on taxpayers if one of the first two options was taken.

They said the fire service should look at the number of officers in senior management as a potential way of mitigating costs.

They said: “There are higher costs involved in realising those options (as well as job losses associated with option 2) and the council is concerned about the impact of this on the level of rates’ increase that would be necessary to implement the change.

“In the context of cost, the council notes that the number of officers at senior management level within the regional fire and rescue authority appears high compared to other fire and rescue authorities across England and Wales.

“From the point of view of the taxpayer in Gwynedd, the council believes that it would be sensible for the fire authority to weigh up that management cost alongside its ability to provide the front-line service it seeks to achieve.”

They said there was “extreme pressure being predicted” on council budgets next year and beyond.

They said: “The required contribution from the six local authorities would represent an approximate 14% increase in order to realise option 1 and around 10% to realise option 2 and this would mean that some of our local services as a council would be under greater threat than would otherwise be the case.”

The council added: “In summary, the council is supportive of the aim to improve emergency response services and is keen to see day staffed fire stations in Porthmadog and Dolgellau being established, but not at the expense of closing the on-call fire stations in Abersoch and Llanberis, whilst further proposing that there is scope to consider reducing the foreseen increase in the levy for the 2024-25 tax year by reviewing senior management requirements and administrative arrangements within the fire authority.”

It comes as the fire service confirmed it will be extending the public consultation, and it will now run until midnight on September 30.

So far, 1,100 people have given feedback.

Chief Fire Officer Dawn Docx thanked everyone who had taken part in the consultation or attended community engagement events.

“We want to ensure that everyone has the best chance possible to record what they think our emergency cover should look like in the future,” she said.

Councillor Dylan Rees, Chair of the Fire and Rescue Authority, said: “The response so far is an indication of just how important this consultation is to everyone in North Wales, we want to ensure we as an Authority have the best opportunity possible of understanding the public’s views.”

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