The oldest and smallest fire station in Berkshire is set to be closed after failing to meet targets.

Wargrave Fire Station, on Victoria Road, has earmarked for closure for the last two years in an attempt by the Royal Berkshire Fire Authority (RBFA) to cut costs.

Plans to close the station were approved by the RBFA in April 2017 but delayed to see if the station could meet staffing levels targets or if the RBFA could find savings elsewhere.

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The closure was deferred a second time in November 2018.

The RBFA Management Committee vote again on whether to close the fire station on Tuesday.

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Will the decision be pushed back again?

Reading councillor Paul Gittings, a member of the Management Committee, said he will put forward an amendment for every member of the RBFA to have their say in January.

He said: “The decision was made by completely different people two years ago.

“It is odd to refer back to a decision made 20 months ago. Things have changed significantly.

“The decision should be made by the full authority in January. It needs to have full examination.”

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Cllr Gittings is firmly against the proposal to close the station.

He said: “We are in this mess because budgets have been cut. Before local authority cuts this kind of station would have been kept open.

“It has been only available on one or two days per week but, if you look at other retained stations, they have similar figures and have been kept open.

“They have not had to meet such hard targets.”

Why is the station set to be closed?

The authority held a public consultation in 2017 on potential proposals to cut costs after it discovered it needed to make savings of £2.4 million to deliver a balanced budget.

Closing Wargrave and Pangbourne fire stations was the most popular option.

After a campaign by Wargrave residents and parish councillors, members of the authority agreed to defer the closure for 12 months.

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The station, which opened in 1903, was told it must increase the ‘availability’ of its crew from around six per cent to 60 per cent or be closed.

The fire station is home to retained firefighters, which means they are on-call and must live within a certain distance of the station to be able to respond to incidents.

To reach 60 per cent availability, the station’s crew would have to be able to respond to a fire on six out of every 10 days.

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When retained stations like Wargrave are not available to respond, full time stations take over.

The RBFA agreed in November 2018 to defer closure for another nine months to give the fire station more time to meet the target.

The station reached a high of 46.4 per cent availability in January 2019 but has not reached this level again since.

The report states that, although there was marked improvement in January – April 2019, this was mainly because of new staff obtaining qualifications and was short lived as there were three resignations in the next quarter.

Closing the station would save the fire authority £168,000 – the fire authority has not been able to find these savings elsewhere.

What will happen on Tuesday?

The Management Committee now must decide whether to agree to close the fire station or press pause again.

Members can also put forward amendments, such as Cllr Gittings’ proposal to defer the decision to the full authority.

If the closure is agreed, those affected will meet with the fire authority to discuss alternative employment opportunities.

What impact would closure have?

A risk assessment by the RBFA found closing Wargrave Fire Station would impact the fire authority’s response time aim by less than 0.1 per cent.

But Cllr Gittings warned that the next station “is quite far away” and its firefighters would struggle to meet response targets.