FIRE service bosses have said there will be no cuts in the number of fire stations or fire engines in Wiltshire following criticism of its new operational plan by the Fire Brigades Union.

The union claims the plan is unfit for purpose and the proposals are unacceptable.

Executive council member Tam McFarlane said: "After careful consideration it is the professional view of the FBU and our members in Wiltshire that, if implemented, these proposals will make wholesale cuts to the front line which will dramatically reduce the operational effectiveness of Wiltshire Fire & Rescue Service."

But today Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service responded saying: "There has been no reduction in the number of fire stations or the number of fire engines since the new combined Service came into being on 1 April 2016, and there are currently no plans for this to change."

Coun Spencer Flower, who chairs Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Authority, said: “We knew before setting the budget for this year that we faced a reduction in Government grant of 27 per cent over four years, and we have planned accordingly.

"As well as maintaining our level of operational response, we are also continuing to invest in prevention and protection activity to help keep our communities safe and well.”

But the service did say that while no cuts to emergency response are planned, it is constantly exploring ways of working more efficiently.

Chief Fire Officer Ben Ansell said: “Last year, our Band D fire precept was £69.21, compared to a national average for of £73.14. We achieved £4 million worth of cashable and non-cashable savings in order to help balance the 2016-17 budget.

"In spite of our combination, we received one of the worst financial settlements for combined fire authorities in England and Wales and, as such, we are constantly reviewing all aspects of our service to identify ways we can improve efficiency and make our money go even further.

"We are consolidating contracts and working with others to procure key support services to maximise our savings.”

A recruitment drive for full-time firefighters will start later this year and the service will try to encourage more women to join.