DORSET’S fire service could lose £1m in planned savings if proposals for a merger with Wiltshire and Swindon do not go ahead on time.

As reported in the Echo, Dorset Fire Authority is consulting with the public over plans to merge with the two authorities.

The merger comes after central government funding was reduced and the resulting budget deficits threatened to have an impact on frontline services.

But changes to timescales to secure the order, which were initially made to avoid delays caused by the General Election, could cause problems anyway, according to Chief Fire Officer Darran Gunter.

At Dorset Fire Authority’s meeting Mr Gunter told members that a new completion date of July 2015 would be six months later than planned, and would risk £1m in savings scheduled to offset the authority’s deficits in the 2015/16.

Mr Gunter said: “There’s a big issue of finance. For the combination order, it will cost £1m for a six-month delay.”

He added that both Dorset and Wiltshire fire authorities were working together to bring the combination timetable forward and prevent financial losses.

He also said they were meeting with DCLG transformation fund staff this week about an application for £5.6m of funding for the combination order.

The fund was set up for local authorities to redesign more user-friendly and efficient services.

He said: “If it is approved we can go to the DCLG and ask them to go ahead with the combination order. We will be using any success with the bid as leverage. But if the combination order fails we wouldn’t receive a penny [of the £5.6m].”

A decision on the £5.6m funding bid is expected in the next few weeks.

• Dorset Fire Authority board members were also updated on the merger consultation process at the meeting.

Invite-only residents’ forums have been set up by Opinion Research Services and are being held in Weymouth and west Dorset.

After the public consultation finishes, options will be considered at Dorset Fire Authority’s meeting on November 4. The public can also take part by completing a questionnaire, which is open until October 20.

Visit, call 08000 352077, or pick up a questionnaire from any Dorset library.