FIRE chiefs in Cheshire say they are confident that the launch of a new emergency response programme will help them to protect local communities – despite major cuts in Government funding.

At last week’s meeting of Cheshire Fire Authority Members were told to expect ongoing cuts of eight per cent a year from their central Government funding – meaning that savings of more than £8 million will be needed over the next four years.

They agreed to make savings of £2.2million in the next financial year, with £1.7million from changing how some fire engines are staffed and the remainder mostly from cuts in support service areas.

In addition, the authority is increasing its Council Tax by 1.99 per cent – meaning that people in a Band D home will pay £69.09 a year, a rise of 2.6p a week or £1.34 a year.

“I’m pleased that despite the major and ongoing cuts in our Government funding, we have been able to limit the increase in our Council Tax to under two per cent as we know just how tight money is for many of our residents,” said Fire Authority Chair Clr John Joyce.

“This still means we will have to find big savings over the next few years but I believe our plans to change how we provide emergency response in the future will deliver the first class fire and rescue service our communities deserve – and make efficiencies.”

Chief Fire Officer Paul Hancock said the plans involved building at least four more fire stations, maintaining the same number of fire engines but making significant changes in how many of them are staffed.

Last week’s meeting approved a capital programme for 2014-15 of £13.78 million, with £8.1million towards the start of building the new stations planned for Alsager, Penketh, Lymm and near the junction of the M53 and M56 motorways.