AS relentless austerity cuts show no signs of slowing down, the decisions that have to be made by local authorities will become increasingly tougher.

Cumbria County Council has already saved £153m in the last five years - but must find further savings of £55m by 2018/2019.

It has already slimmed down the workforce from 10,000 to 7,000, stopped its bus subsidies and after a four-year council tax freeze upped it by two per cent last year.

Council chiefs are legally obliged to balance their books and are faced with the unpopular task of cutting public services.

But today, The Westmorland Gazette is urging the county council to leave our fire stations alone.

Arnside and Staveley are two of the five fire on-call stations in the county which could be axed when councillors meet next year to decide on a £17.5m package of cuts.

The council says their closures would save £375,000 a year, raise £365,000 by selling the buildings and also shave £63,000 a year off running costs.

However, there are fears the cuts could cost lives and the Gazette's campaign hopes to garner enough support to persuade councillors to keep the fire stations open come D-Day.

The authority argues incident numbers have fallen to a point where it is no longer justifiable to keep the stations open.

What it does not seem to realise is how much help crews at Arnside and Staveley give to surrounding villages, towns and communities.

What it does not seem to recognise is how crucial local people staffing local stations are.

And what it needs to understand is the level of anger that has followed the announcement.

Local communities are rightly to be outraged at the plans.

People in Arnside and Staveley pay their Council Tax and expect a decent level of provision from their fire service.

This week residents have shown their opposition by packing into a public meeting in Arnside and erecting banners in Staveley.

As the voice of the community we are proud to stand side by side with them in opposing the cuts and urge our readers to do the same.