FIVE fire stations – including two in Wirral – are still under threat despite the fire authority increasing its council tax precept.
Last week Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority put up its precept – the amount of money it gets from council tax bills – to the maximum amount it could charge, 4%.
But Dan Stephens, the chief fire officer, said it would not be enough to guarantee fire stations would stay open and no jobs would be lost.
The fire authority has to make massive savings. Despite already dealing with £9m budget cuts from 2011 to 2013, it is expecting to be told to save a minimum of £8.5m from 2013 to 2015.
The best case scenario, the Wirral News understands, is that this would put stations in Heswall and West Kirby, plus Aintree, Allerton and Eccleston, at risk.
Eleven fire engines would be stripped from service, with frontline posts culled across the region.
The worst case feared by the authority when ministers announce the service’s grant settlement in December is that £17m may have to be found.
Today chief fire officer Stephens, who lives in Heswall, said: “The precept increase confirmed by the Fire Authority was in line with our financial planning for this year.
“Unfortunately it will not mitigate the impact of a further possible £8.5m of Government grant cuts over the next two years. If the cuts are at that expected level then two Wirral stations would be at risk of closure.”
The 4% hike was agreed by the fire authority as it attempts to deal with government cuts.
It will mean a rise of 3p a week (£1.73 a year) in 2012/13 for the majority of taxpayers on Merseyside.