Owen Paterson MP pledges to fight for rural Shropshire fire stations

Rural fire stations must not be closed to meet cost-saving targets, Environment Secretary Owen Paterson has insisted.

The North Shropshire MP pledged to do all he could to save fire stations in Prees, Baschurch, Clun and Hodnet, which are all facing the axe as part of plans to cut £1.9 million from Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service's budget.

He made the claim at a private meeting with parish councillors and for service officials at Prees Fire Station, where he was told by retained firefighters and a school governor about some of the problems the village would face if it lost its fire station.

The closure of the four rural fire stations is one of about 50 options being considered by fire service chiefs, and would save £500,000 – about £150,000 per station.

The target maximum response time by a fire crew could also rise from 15 minutes to 25 under the proposals.

It comes ahead of a delegation of MPs meeting Fire Minister Brandon Lewis on November 27 to discuss the future of the fire service.

A public meeting will be held at Prees Village Hall on November 26.

Mr Paterson said: "The thing that's really bad about this is that it will be a major degradation on the service all around Shropshire. These four stations cannot be shut, let's be clear about that."

John Redmond, chief fire officer for Shropshire, said if stations or fire engines were cut the service in rural areas would suffer. He said: "If the outcomes of these cuts are as dramatic as we think they are going to be, we will have a worse service.

"We are acutely aware of the depth of feeling here, this is not something we are taking lightly.

"Nothing has been decided yet, what we're talking about here is an impact assessment not a consultation on shutting the fire station."

Jeremy Chambers, retained firefighter for 22 years at the Prees station, said it had 12 crew who tackled 85 incidents last year including 33 fires and nine traffic accidents.

Councillor Stuart West, chairman of Shropshire and Wrekin Fire Authority, urged people to have their say on the website www.shropshirefire.gov.uk

Shropshire currently has 23 stations with a budget of £20 million. The service is already making cuts of £3.2 million and has been told it must save a further £1.9 million by 2020.

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