HAVING previously voiced my concerns via the pages of the Greenock Telegraph regarding the cuts to the Fire and Rescue Service within Inverclyde, it was disappointing to read that the Police Scotland operational footprint within the district is going to suffer the same fate with the proposed closure of Greenock Police Office, due to the woeful and much documented underfunding of both emergency services by the Scottish Government.

I was therefore extremely interested in the thoughts of our Provost Drew McKenzie on the emergency service cuts in is ‘Chain Reaction’ column in the Tele, dated December 13 where he discussed a solution to certain aspects of the cuts in terms of the creation of an emergency services hub, housing all three blue light services in Inverclyde, built and funded by Inverclyde Council, and ‘leased’ to the emergency services.

I completely concur with the provost's thoughts and outlined a very similar idea within a document I sent recently to all our local councillors and MSP Stuart McMillan. Here is an extract from that proposal:

'At a recent Police and Fire Committee, regarding the closure of the Police Station, the Police Divisional Commander intimated that all options were open including sharing premises with appropriate partners.

'The SFRS has intimated that “To maximise the opportunities of co-location, work will continue, through the emergency services Reform Collaboration Group and other collaborative arrangements, to identify and exploit opportunities that maximise public value from both existing and future investment”.

'It would therefore make sense given the financial challenges facing both organisations for the SFRS and Police Scotland to examine the opportunity to co-locate Greenock Fire Station and the Main Police office at a mutually agreeable location within Inverclyde.

'The idea of co-location of the emergency services is nothing new. The SFRS is currently sharing stations with other public-sector organisations, and this has grown significantly over recent years and according to the SFRS a standard approach has been developed. SFRS as of February 2023 has 64 (previous year 54) shared locations throughout Scotland.

'Greenock Fire Station is an example of the benefits of emergency service co-location, with Police Scotland’s Marine Policing Underwater Search Unit and HM Coastguard Rescue Team being co-located at the station since 2009, with the formation of the fire service Maritime Incident Response Group (MIRG) [now disbanded] this arrangement was the first of its kind in the United Kingdom with 3 emergency services dedicated to marine firefighting and rescue co-locating in the same building.

'This particular co-location agreement, [at the time of agreement in 2009], was scheduled to run for a period of 25 years until 2034. It is unknown if the co-location/lease agreement has been renegotiated or extended.'

Given the fact that Police Scotland and the SFRS are already undertaking a co-location arrangement at Greenock Fire Station and both organisations willingness to share premises, the provost's suggested solution of bringing both organisations together with the involvement of Inverclyde Council should not be dismissed and must be actively pursued by the Strategic Management Teams of both Police and Fire.

Hopefully Councillor David Wilson, the current Chair of the Local Police and Fire Scrutiny Panel, may take the opportunity to raise the issue with both the Police and Fire Local Senior Commanders, with the aim of opening a positive line of communication with all three organisations, to come up with a solution that will address the serious funding gaps both emergency services have in maintaining and more importantly retaining police and fire stations within Inverclyde that are both fit for purpose and remain in situ to provide the essential protection to the residents of Inverclyde.

Richard Duncan