wmfs1Plans to sell or rent out the WMFS Academy in Smethwick are to be considered by West Midlands Fire and Rescue Authority.

A report to WMFRA’s next full meeting on 25 November asks members to approve the proposals, under which firefighters’ training would instead be delivered at fire stations and in local communities.

Chief Fire Officer Phil Loach said: “We’ve carried out a strategic assessment of our sites and buildings, to ensure they’re as well-located, efficient and fit for a modern fire and rescue service as possible.

“Our proposals for The Academy support the efficiencies we’re making as a service. Staff will be relocated and our firefighters will do more training in the communities they serve - staying available to respond to local emergencies should the need arise.

“We’re committed to providing an environment that encourages all staff to be the best they can be in the pursuit of excellence. This includes investment in the highest quality training and development facilities used to support individual and team development plans.
“The broader Buildings Asset Strategy shows which other schemes we’d like to prioritise. It complements our rolling three-year operational plan for keeping the West Midlands safe, as well as our medium-term financial strategy.”

The document proposes the re-build of Aston fire station - the brigade’s oldest, built in 1924 - with options to consider its relocation closer to the city and a main road, to optimise emergency response times.

Kings Norton fire station, built in 1930, should also be replaced with a new building in the same area as the current one, states the report - to optimise response times and provide blue light responders with a more efficient and effective base.

Other recommendations to be considered by WMFRA members include:
· the demolition of Coventry fire station and its replacement on the same site with a more suitable building
· the demolition and replacement on the same site of the original 1977 fire station building at Bickenhill
· the sale of a number of residential or non-operational premises owned by WMFS (with suitable alternative provision made for secure tenants).

Councillor John Edwards, Chair of WMFRA, said: “We have faced huge financial challenges, with multi-million pound reductions in the funding we get from central Government. These cuts are likely to continue, and we need to find innovative ways of delivering our services.

“The Buildings Asset Strategy allows us to modernise and maintain our reputation for being an efficient and effective service. Much of what is proposed would be funded by selling or leasing existing premises, and by maximising the gains we’re already achieving through environmental and energy improvements.”