Carlow and Kilkenny Fire Services are to share a Chief Fire Officer. The move follows a government policy introduced by former Minister for Environment Phil Hogan, under the ‘Keeping Communities Safe’ programme, which aims to reduce fire service authorities from 30 to just 21 nationally.
The merging of the two Chief Fire Officer positions for Carlow and Kilkenny was highlighted and severely criticised by councillors at a recent meeting of Carlow County Council.
Councillor Anne Ahern said “when it comes to fire safety, we can’t risk any cutbacks that would compromise the service, and that this move is asking for a leap of faith”, while Councillor John Cassin said the move amounted to a “slippery slope of devolution of power.”
CEO: ‘Authorities not looking for councillors endorsement’
Many councillors said they were not prepared to endorse the move until they sought assurances that the fire service in County Carlow would not suffer, however, Carlow County Council’s Chief Executive Tom Barry said the authorities were not looking for an endorsement from the local representatives.
Mr. Barry said that the proposal was to share the expertise between the two counties as a starting point, and that the council would continue its role as the statutory fire authority. In response to a statement by Councillor Jennifer Murnane O’ Connor that Kilkenny’s chief fire officer wasn’t replaced, Mr. Barry said that this presented an opportunity to introduce the changes.
CFO: ‘Delivery of services will not be affected’
Chief Fire Officer with Carlow County Fire Service is Gerard W Guerin. He attended the meeting and addressed some of the concerns raised by councillors. Mr. Guerin insisted that the sharing of the CFO position would not affect the delivery of services on the ground. “This hasn’t been done before, so there’s no model. It could be seen as a disadvantage, but we can also see it as an opportunity to reshape the service. This will not affect the delivery of the services on the ground” he said.
Ger Guerin said he was not interested in any change that would damage the delivery of the service and that a structure was needed to improve services for both counties, and that there are efficiencies that can be achieved by amalgamating both services.
No guarantee that all four Carlow stations will remain open
Councillor William Paton queried whether the fire stations in Carlow, Bagenalstown, Tullow and Hacketstown would remain open following the merge of the Chief Fire Officer; however, CEO Tom Barry said he couldn’t give any guarantee about the four Carlow fire stations, adding that “any changes to the fire safety plan would come directly from the fire services.”
Published: 25/10/14 at 16:00
Pic: By Declan Keogh
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