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Letter on Fire Brigade merger -

November 8, 2014 2:18 PM

8 November 2014

Dear Editor

As a mere back bench Independent councillor, I supposed I should be flattered that Jane Scott, Leader of Wiltshire Council, has seen fit to give me wider publicity. In her letter in last week's Wiltshire Times, she refers to the recent Council debate to sharply criticise my stance on the Fire merger. It follows that I am now honour bound to respond, if only to put the public record straight.

This is easily done. In fact Mrs Scott gives clear direction by mentioning the available webcast of the debate - accessible via the Council website. I challenge your readers to watch this in detail and evaluate my case, viz a viz hers. I warn them that they will have to endure tedium and procedural petty fogging of council debate. However, if they stick at it, they will see how the Conservatives attempted to rig the debate. How it had to be adjourned whilst opposition councillors sought legal advice; how the Conservatives changed their motion to an amendment and so on.

During the debate we heard disparaging comments on the Fire Service from a range of Conservative councillors, plus a most cogent case for the merger from Conservative Councillor Graham Payne - ex Chairman of the Fire Authority. Regretfully in the end, the Conservatives voted on bloc, apart from Councillor Payne and a few abstentions from Conservatives on the Fire Authority.

This meant that Wiltshire Council's position on the merger was; not to support. They took the same decision back in July. They justified both decisions by saying they wanted more information. This is wilful blindness. The consultation period on the merger is now over. Dorset has already voted for it, as have Swindon. Central government is backing it and so it seems are the public, but Wiltshire still can't. As I said in the debate; they have simply left it too late. The train has left the station. The merger will go ahead, with or without Wiltshire Council. For the life of me, I still can't see why the Council has adopted this dog in the manger attitude. Anyway, watch the webcast and make your own judgement.

To close; I must say there are now more pressing matters at County Hall. This is demonstrated by your editorial on Wiltshire Council contractors. The next budget round has started and the informed talk is that the Council will be taking between one and two million pounds out of the Balfour Beatty contract. Watch this space to see how this plays with the public.

Regards

Jeff Osborn

Independent Wiltshire Councillor