A public consultation on the future of the fire service in north Wales - which could result in the closure of Abersoch station - has been extended.
North Wales Fire and Rescue Service says it wants to speed up response times and improve emergency cover in Dolgellau and Porthmadog, but this could see the closure of five fire stations across north Wales, including Llanberis and Abersoch, and lead to some firefighters losing their jobs.
The public consultation deadline of Friday, 22 September, has now been extended until midnight on Saturday, 30 September. So far, 1,100 people have given feedback. Chief Fire Officer Dawn Docx thanked everyone who had taken part or attended community engagement events.
She said: “We are pleased that so many have completed our questionnaire, whether online or on paper, and are getting involved in our consultation process.
“However, we have been listening carefully to what you have said since we launched the consultation on 20 July and 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.
“We are conscious that there are still members of the public, local organisations and those who represent others in our communities who are keen to have more time to express their views.”
To complete the questionnaire and access the information needed to respond, visit www.northwalesfire.gov.wales. You can call or text 07787 578 386 for a paper copy or easy read format, or email [email protected]. You can also attend one of the consultation events being held across north Wales and on line to gather feedback – details can be found on the website above.
After the final decision has been made, any changes would take place in a phased approach, as part of the 2024/28 Community Risk Management Plan.
Cllr 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.”
Gwynedd Council has sent a letter to the fire service expressing concern over the proposals that could see fire stations in tourist hotspots shut. Three different options have been put forward. One would see full-time firefighters put on duty during the day in those places. There would be no job losses, but every north Wales household would pay £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 and 22 firefighter jobs lost to make savings of around £1.1m. 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 and the loss of 36 full-time firefighters and 38 on-call firefighters. This option would see taxpayers pay £12.22 more than now.
Gwynedd Council is firmly opposed the third option. The council said: “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, and the fire service should look at the number of officers in senior management as a potential way of mitigating costs, adding: “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.
“The required contribution from the six local authorities would represent an approximate 14 per cent increase in order to realise option one and around 10 per cent 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.
“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.”
The deadline to sign the petition has been extended to 30 September, in accordance with the consultation. The petition can be found at https://bangoraberconwy.partyof.wales/achub_ein_gorsafoedd_tan.