‘We’ll hold the chief’s feet to the fire over response times’

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Two fire stations will close to make way for one of the country’s first ever blue light hubs to house firefighters, police and paramedics under the same roof.

A heated debate between fire authority members raged for hours yesterday over proposals to scrap the two city fire stations and replace them with a £4.4 million hub.

Only four out of 17 councillors voted against the proposal – despite protest from a packed public gallery.

Many feared the closure of Bletchley and Great Holm fire stations would lead to longer response times for those in the north of the city.

Tory vice-chairman of the fire authority, Councillor Andy Dransfield, voted for the hub but said: “We will be holding the chief fire officer’s feet to the fire over response times in the western flank to make sure he has delivered on what he has professionally promised.”

A consultation exercise showed 89 per cent of people were against scrapping the two fire stations. But only 0.5 per cent of the population took part in the online questionnaire.

Bucks Fire head of projects Paul Holland assured the meeting that the new West Ashland hub would not change existing response times. He said fire engines would still arrive at the scene within 10 minutes on 80 per cent of occasions.

There would also be no reduction in the number of fire engines and no firefighter redundancies, he said.

Chief fire officer Jason Thelwell said the hub, which has already secured £2.8m of government funding, would be an “exciting and dynamic” opportunity.

He said: “We want to change how we deliver our service for the good of the community.”

But Labour’s Kevin Wilson accused the fire officers of “flogging a dead horse” with their hub proposal.

He warned: “One day you will be faced with a death that could have been avoided.”

Also vociferous in her objections was Councillor Zoe Nolan who said: “If this proposal was in the hands of MK Council, it would have been kicked out ages ago.”

Mr Dransfield added: “This has been a consultation, not a referendum.

“Lots of people think that if they shout and go to collect petitions that we should listen to a very small minority rather than listening to the arguments.”