A new era began in Dorset and Wiltshire on 1 April, when the two county fire and rescue services formally combined into one organisation. With 50 fire stations, 73 fire engines and over 1000 full-time and on-call firefighters, Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service will protect over 1.45 million residents in the local authority areas of Bournemouth, Dorset, Poole, Swindon and Wiltshire.
Darran Gunter (right), formerly Chief Fire Officer of Dorset, is the CFO of the new service. He and his Senior Leadership Team are based at the new headquarters in Salisbury, which form part of the Five Rivers Health and Wellbeing Centre owned by Wiltshire Council.
The former headquarters buildings in Potterne (Wiltshire) and Poundbury (Dorset) will continue to be used as area offices, with a full review of the service’s estate being undertaken.
A new joint Service Control Centre was opened at Potterne in August 2015 and has been dealing with 999 calls for both counties since that time.
Darran Gunter said, “This is an historic day for the fire and rescue services in Dorset and Wiltshire. We have brought together two small organisations, both of which had a fine history of partnership working and developing innovative ideas for the benefit of their communities. By combining, we forecast making annual savings in excess of £6m, and we are far better placed to manage the continuing challenges of reduced Government funding.
“We have made these savings through streamlined support services, reducing the number of senior and middle managers, and finding more efficient and effective ways of working. Every fire station remains open, every fire engine remains available, we will be appointing eight new wholetime firefighters – our first recruitment in more than seven years – and we are keen to bring in even more on-call firefighters to work with us to protect their local communities.”
He added, “Since the decision to explore combination was first made in December 2013, a huge amount of work has been done by both officers and Elected Members. I would particularly like to pay personal tribute to the outgoing Chief Fire Officer of Wiltshire, Simon Routh-Jones, whose absolute belief in combination was vital, and we would not be celebrating this new service had it not been for the dedication and professionalism shown by him and so many other staff across the whole organisation.”
Councillor Rebecca Knox has been elected as the first Chairman of the new Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Authority. Cllr Knox, who represents Beaminster on Dorset County Council, was formerly the Chairman of Dorset Fire Authority. Her Vice Chairman is Cllr Garry Perkins, formerly vice-Chairman of Wiltshire & Swindon Combined Fire Authority, who represents the Haydon Wick ward on Swindon Borough Council.