OPPOSITION is mounting against plans to shut Arnside and Staveley fire stations in the wake of massive cuts to local government funding.

Cumbria County Council wants to close five stations across the county as it looks for ways to slash £55m from its budget over the next two years as austerity measures bite.

And today, The Westmorland Gazette launches a campaign demanding the fire stations are kept open.

We are calling on readers to show their support for the communities which would be affected by the proposal by filling out the attached coupon in the paper or by signing the online petition here.

Our campaign - Save our Fire Stations - will highlight the need for the stations, staffed by a retained crew, to be maintained - no matter how often their services are required because you cannot put a price on a life.


Shutting the stations would save £375k a year, raise £365,000 by selling the buildings and also shave £63,000 a year off running costs including rates, heating and lighting.

In the last week that groundswell of opposition has led to:

* Around 300 people attending a public meeting at Arnside to grill fire chiefs and councillors

* Banners being put up in Staveley as their crew helped with the flooding problems over the weekend

* A fire brigade union chief warning that: 'You cannot put a price on life'.

Cumbria County Council is legally bound to balance its books and claims call-outs at the stations have dropped to a point where it is no longer justifiable to keep them open.

The fire station cuts form part of a package of £37m worth of savings in 2016/2017.

But the Gazette is urging council chiefs to go back to the drawing board and find the savings elsewhere.

Fire Brigade Union rep for the retained service, Kevin Connolly, runs the Facebook page Save Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service/Oppose Fire Cuts.

He backed our campaign, saying: "If everyone's voices combine then the councillors cannot ignore that.

"It is hard to recruit retained firefighters so to get rid of what we have does not make sense.

"They cost a pittance to run, about £40,000 a year. If that fire engine saves one life a year, I would say that it was worth it."

The campaign launch comes as local communities step up their own efforts to save their stations.

The importance of maintaining retained firefighters at Staveley was highlighted during three major flooding incidents this weekend.

During a deluge of heavy rain, the team were put to use at The Daffodil Hotel & Spa in Grasmere, where water flooded its car park, a house flood in Burneside and a lady and a dog stranded in a car in the Lyth Valley.

Watch manager Clive Johnson said: "Our turnouts have gone up due to the fact that they have taken a fire engine away from Windermere and a full-time night crew from Kendal.

"We are doing more and more work in other people's communities and I don't think the public realise how much we do."

The cuts are being proposed as the fire service's budget has dropped from £22m in 2010 to £17m now.

Jim Onions, the council's chief fire officer, said the decision to close the stations follows a drop in incidents county-wide from 7,000 in 2007/2008 to 4,000 in 2014/15.

The number of fires have also halved in the same period to 1,500.

According to figures in the council's consultation document the average number of incidents between 2011-2014 was 22 in Arnside and 14 in Staveley.

But Mr Connolly said the figures did not take into account call-outs to other areas and said the cuts would cause other stations to be stretched.

The proposals to close Arnside, Staveley, Lazonby, Frizington and Walney stations would see 50 on-call firefighters lose their jobs.

Submitted coupons will be presented to the council as part of the consultation, which closes on January 22.

Full council will have the final say on February 18.

Contact tom.murphy@nqnw.co.uk or phone 01539 790254 with your stories of how the local fire services in Arnside and Staveley have helped you.