New fire chief in vow to protect frontline service

THE new chief of Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue Service has vowed not to let "inevitable" funding cuts jeopardise firefighters on the front line.

Jimmy Campbell, 55, who is currently working his notice as chief of Fife's fire service, said he was hoping the government would not merge police, ambulance and fire control rooms – a measure currently being considered to cut public service costs.

He said that whether or not the control rooms would become one large unit – potentially slashing costs and jobs – was "not on his agenda" and would only come from a "political decision" that was out of his hands.

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Mr Campbell also said it was too early to decide what strategy he wanted to take, but that he was determined to match or improve the performance of Edinburgh's firefighters, despite a 5 million funding shortfall in 2011.

Currently the fire service budget is set at 45m, but Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue Service is planning to make savings of 4.83m from next year until 2014.

Mr Campbell, who is set to take up the 122,000 post on 25 June, said: "It is inevitable that the fire service will be affected, but I plan to tackle the fiscal crisis head on.

"I'm starting to prepare now for the challenge and I have a commitment to maintaining or improving the frontline service. We're already got one of the most cost-effective fire services in the country."

He added that he hoped to draw on his experience in Fife to strengthen the links between public services such as the police, council, and health board.

Mr Campbell said: "I think we could work closer together, for example in promoting road safety initiatives.

"If we work to hammer the point home at the same time they would have maximum impact."

The new chief, who started his career as a trainee firefighter in the Lothians 35 years ago, said he was "ecstatic" to have landed the role.

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He said: "It's one of the best fire chief roles in the UK and coming back to Edinburgh feels like coming home.

"It's an honour to take over from Brian Allaway, whose leadership after Ewan Williamson tragically died was second to none."

Mr Allaway, who is retiring, said of the appointment: "I am delighted to learn that Jimmy Campbell has been appointed as my successor in Lothian and Borders.

"Jimmy began his career here and will already know many people from the service, he will be looking forward to meeting both them and the staff that he doesn't know yet.

"I've known Jimmy for many years and I have absolutely no doubt that he will make an excellent chief."

Mr Campbell was awarded the Queen's Fire Service Medal by Prince Charles last year.