Since I was elected in 1997 I have enjoyed a good working relationship with the Officers at Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service whose volunteer fire-fighters serve the people of North Shropshire bravely. I was therefore concerned to learn that the Fire Authority was considering scrapping the fire stations at Baschurch, Hodnet and Prees. Many constituents shared my real worries and I received a large postbag of letters from concerned residents.
Public meetings were held to discuss each of the three fire stations that were threatened with closure. At every meeting, the fire-fighters explained the details of each area and made compelling arguments. There was a good turnout of local residents who made important contributions. Each station covers an area with its own unique characteristics but the overwhelming worry was the sharp increase in response times.
Small retained fire stations provide a vital service in North Shropshire. The Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service’s track record speaks for itself; it is one of the two best performing fire services in the country. I am grateful to Chief Fire Officer, John Redmond for coming to each of the meetings and making a clear presentation on the Fire Authority’s position.
Efforts to stop these closures were not just limited to North Shropshire. Fire Minister, Brandon Lewis MP agreed to meet a delegation of Shropshire MP’s at the House of Commons. John Redmond travelled from Shropshire to help present our concerns to the Minister. He made a strong case for the difficult position in which Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service finds itself, in particular in comparison to many urban Fire Authorities.
I was therefore delighted when Shropshire Fire and Rescue Authority made the wise decision to keep the stations open. This was a direct result of the overwhelming support of local people whose voices were heard loud and clear.
I am grateful to all of those who wrote to me about this issue. This was a real team effort and shows that together, we can make a difference.