Investing for the future

The logo of Avon Fire AuthorityAvon Fire Authority (AFA) is investing for the future as it strives to address the continuing financial challenges faced by the fire and rescue service.

Plans being put to AFA will propose that two Bristol stations are merged into one, that a new Headquarters is developed in Keynsham, and the creation of a new fire station in the vicinity of the Avon Ring Road.

Chief Fire Officer Kevin Pearson said: “My key message to the public is simple and clear; Avon Fire & Rescue Service (AF&RS) is changing; our standards are not.

“When people need our help, we will be ready and equipped to respond, now and in the future.”

The service has identified a funding gap totalling £3 million by 2016/17 which it needs to address by reducing costs and finding more efficient ways of delivering its vital services.

The first phase of the plan has already been achieved. An Aerial Rescue Pump (ARP) from Patchway Fire Station has been relocated to Speedwell Fire Station.

This was in response to a statistical analysis about where the ARP was used most over the past few years.

In the coming weeks, a planning application will be submitted to South Gloucestershire Council for the refurbishment and extension of Kingswood Fire Station to accommodate more fire engines and staff.

This will enable the merger of the Speedwell and Kingswood stations.

The relocation of the ARP to Speedwell has reduced the need for 32 operational posts, which represents a saving of £1.2million.

This reduction can be achieved through natural wastage, avoiding the need for any redundancies.

Meanwhile, talks have taken place with Bath and North East Somerset Council about moving AF&RS’s Headquarters from Bristol city centre to a new site in Keynsham, plus a new fire station nearby in the vicinity of the Avon Ring Road.

CFO Pearson said: “Keynsham town centre is undergoing a major redevelopment which means the existing fire station there will have to move.

“It’s estimated that our current Headquarters site, in central Bristol, needs around £7 million of repairs to maintain.

“The redevelopment of Keynsham town centre provides an opportunity, which was not there before, to move to a smaller, purpose-built, Headquarters that reflects our modern needs, and which would be far more efficient to maintain.

“We will still maintain a fire station in the centre of Bristol, equipped and crewed to the same levels as at present, but on a smaller footprint.”

CFO Pearson said: “The service we provide to the public is paramount, which is why we will implement plans which allow our response standards to remain unchanged.

“Indeed, in some areas, they may even improve. People can now log onto our website, enter their postcode, and find out what the AF&RS response times to them should be.

“It is very important that the public understands that we will continue to provide a first class emergency service.

“The solutions we have come up with in the face of our financial challenges mark the start of an exciting chapter in our history.”

There is a report on the Investing for the Future project being presented to Avon Fire Authority on Friday 19 July.