Islanders are being asked to share their views on proposals to merge the Isle of Wight Fire Service with crews in Hampshire.

A week today, Full Council will consider moving forward with discussions on combining the Island’s fire service with crews across the Solent to create a combined fire authority. This would cover the Isle of Wight, Southampton, Portsmouth and Hampshire.

Before any final decision is made, there’ll be a 12-week public consultation – one on the Island and the other in Hampshire.

The Island’s senior fire officer, Howard Watts is urging Islanders to have their say:

“The Isle of Wight has a really strong, well-equipped fire service that’s much loved by Islanders.

“We’re really keen for residents to engage in the consultation process, to help influence the future of our service.”

The council agreed to a project to explore creating a combined fire authority in February 2017.

According to specialist officers, the potential benefits include improved resilience and increased community safety, but there are reservations on whether it would eventually lead to Island firefighters being deployed across the Solent.

The new combined authority would be made up of members from all relevant councils, who would make decisions on fire-related matters and would build on a partnership between the Isle of Wight Council and Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service, which was set up 3 years ago (2015).

As part of the plans, the proportion of general council tax given to the fire service would be replaced by a separate precept, similar to the police.

When asked if a three-year capital investment of £940,000 towards fleet replacement and new equipment for the Island’s Fire Service would need to be shared, Council Leader, Dave Stewart said:

“Our intention at this time is that we want to invest in our Island facilities, maintain our 10 stations and invest that money into our service so that we have improved facilities and improved equipment.

The operational improvements proposed in the recent review of the fire service are not linked to this proposal.

LISTEN: Council Leader, Dave Stewart is asked by Isle of Wight Radio’s Charlotte Morgan about what the proposed changes could mean for the Island.