FINGAL'S COUNTY manager has revealed the county council has already made ' preliminary enquiries' about outsourcing the county's fire service to Meath or Louth.
County Manager, David O'Connor revealed that tentative steps had already been made to investigate an alternative supplier of the service to Dublin Fire Brigade and it was something he was ready to look into further. In the interim, he cautioned councillors that the county council could not 'abandon' Dublin Fire Brigade at its upcoming budget where Fingal County Council will have to stump up around €18 million as its share of funding for Dublin Fire Brigade which covers all four Dublin local authorities. It is a controversial item on the council's budget each year and now Cllr. Kieran Dennison (FG) has called for the council to reduce the budget allocation to Dublin Fire Brigade through Dublin City Council for 2013 and 'investigate alternative means of providing a service in the county for the following years'. While the county manager said he could 'follow the instruction' to look into alternatives in providing the service, the council could not fail in its duty to provide resources for the service. He said that ' preliminary enquiries' had already been made about an alternative supplier for the service outside Dublin. In a statement on the issue, the county manager did say: ' The cost of the fire service has been a cause of concern to this local authority for some time. ' Through a number of fora, including ongoing meetings at City and County Manager level and through our representation on the Fire Brigade Development Board, we have been seeking to expedite reform within the service in order to reduce the cost to match declining local authority budgets.' He added: ' My concerns in these matters have been conveyed strongly to Dublin City Council. If fire and rescue services are to continue to be provided by Dublin City Council on behalf of Fingal, it is imperative that the progress on the reform of Dublin Fire Brigade is accelerated so that the necessary savings can be realised through revised resourcing that does not compromise service availability.' Cllr Ruth Coppinger (SP) said the motion was ' irresponsible' and said the fire brigade was not the cause of the council's financial problems. But Cllr. Dennison (FG) produced figures which he said showed that the fire services in Meath and Louth produced a more cost-efficient service than Dublin. Cllr. Dennison's motion came up at the end of a long meeting and only 13 councillors were left in the chamber to take a vote on it. Seven voted in favour of the motion, five were against and one abstained. Whether councillors will carry through on that vote at the upcoming budget meeting remains to be seen.