Councillor on verge of quitting over fire service merger row

Trowbridge councillor Graham Payne

North Wiltshire MP James Gray

Wiltshire Council leader Jane Scott

First published in Latest News
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Veteran Trowbridge councillor Graham Payne could be close to quitting the Tory party over a row about the merger of Wiltshire and Dorset fire services.

The Wiltshire councillor is upset that fellow Conservatives have not backed his support for the merger.

Last month he resigned as chairman of the Combined Fire Authority of the Wiltshire and Swindon Fire and Rescue Service as he did not feel he had support of the board.

Sources close to Cllr Payne, who has been a councillor for 38 years, said he is now considering resigning from the Conservative party. It is understood he has been approached by a number of parties or become an independent.

Cllr Payne said: “The people of Wiltshire only really care about how quickly fire fighters get to a call they do not mind what county is on the badge or on the side of the fire engine.

“I feel very strongly about this issue but I want the people of Wiltshire to be the ones that make the decision.

"We have to find a way to save £3.8 million and if the merger doesn’t happen that could mean fire stations close and we lose fire fighters.”

He said he was not surprised that North Wiltshire MP James Gray had opposed the merger as he had spoken out against it when the two men met earlier this year.

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But Mr Gray said he was unaware that his decision to voice protest at the merger had upset Cllr Payne.

He said “I don’t know Graham Payne from Santa Claus. I have never heard of the man. I have opposed this merger as I do not think it would be good for my constituents.”

Wiltshire Council leader Jane Scott denied that senior Tories in North Wiltshire had colluded to oppose the merger.

She said: “I am not necessarily against the merger. But I think we need to have more information before we make this decision.

"It is ridiculous to suggest this is some sort of North Wiltshire cabal that is just people being mischievous.”

“If Graham was to go it would be a shame. He has been a councillor for a long time but he has been an independent before in the past.”

The consultation was due to start on June 12 but has now been delayed until July 21. It will run to October 20.

Cllr Jeff Osborn has tabled a motion calling for support for the merger at a full council meeting on Tuesday, July 29.

Comments (7)

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10:33am Thu 3 Jul 14

ChrisAuckland says...

It would be shame to see Councillor Payne resign from the Conservative Council over this, Trowbridge badly suffers from underrepresentation in the council as it is, and Graham has been the most vocal of the few Trowbridge Conservatives in the council
It would be shame to see Councillor Payne resign from the Conservative Council over this, Trowbridge badly suffers from underrepresentation in the council as it is, and Graham has been the most vocal of the few Trowbridge Conservatives in the council ChrisAuckland
  • Score: 8

12:13pm Thu 3 Jul 14

brandx says...

Graham Payne has the courage of his convictions unlike many councillors at County Hall who see it just as a meal ticket.

I really don't know what more information Jane Scott wants. The Chief Fire Officer has spoken to all Wiltshire councillors and explained very clearly that there are only two alternatives: Either go for a merger with Dorset or close down local fire stations.

Jane Scott and James Gray seem to be backing the latter and all the increased risks it poses to life and property.

Regretfully the Wiltshire Times has got the dates confused. The meeting next Thursday is of the Fire Authority. The date of the next Wiltshire Council meeting is 29th July.

Hopefully by then the merger will get the go ahead, but only if James Gray and Jane Scott change their position or if other Tory councillors have, like Graham Payne, the guts to ignore them.
Graham Payne has the courage of his convictions unlike many councillors at County Hall who see it just as a meal ticket. I really don't know what more information Jane Scott wants. The Chief Fire Officer has spoken to all Wiltshire councillors and explained very clearly that there are only two alternatives: Either go for a merger with Dorset or close down local fire stations. Jane Scott and James Gray seem to be backing the latter and all the increased risks it poses to life and property. Regretfully the Wiltshire Times has got the dates confused. The meeting next Thursday is of the Fire Authority. The date of the next Wiltshire Council meeting is 29th July. Hopefully by then the merger will get the go ahead, but only if James Gray and Jane Scott change their position or if other Tory councillors have, like Graham Payne, the guts to ignore them. brandx
  • Score: 8

12:52pm Thu 3 Jul 14

Blanche Terraine says...

How unspeakably rude and ill-mannered of Mr James Gray to say, “I don’t know Graham Payne from Santa Claus". How arrogant, and sour, and superior. Maybe he should resign instead.
How unspeakably rude and ill-mannered of Mr James Gray to say, “I don’t know Graham Payne from Santa Claus". How arrogant, and sour, and superior. Maybe he should resign instead. Blanche Terraine
  • Score: 22

7:49pm Thu 3 Jul 14

Ray Vasey says...

Here are two ends of the spectrum. A Councillor that represents his electorate wanting what's best for them.
Then, at the other end you have James Gray and Jane Scott who move towards personal goals, empire building, power bases. It all becomes about me, me, me, rather than those they supposedly represent.
Has James "Santa Claus" Gray commissioned a study of his constituents to see what they want?? I think not.
Let's be honest, it's simple really isn't it? Shall the services merge, hopefully save money which may well put bed mates Gray and Scott's noses out of joint?
Or shall we close Fire Stations across the county?? Let's face it The Scrap yard fire a few weeks ago showed how important our Fire Service is.
It's a no brainer!!! Why let arrogance and egotism get in the way?
Here are two ends of the spectrum. A Councillor that represents his electorate wanting what's best for them. Then, at the other end you have James Gray and Jane Scott who move towards personal goals, empire building, power bases. It all becomes about me, me, me, rather than those they supposedly represent. Has James "Santa Claus" Gray commissioned a study of his constituents to see what they want?? I think not. Let's be honest, it's simple really isn't it? Shall the services merge, hopefully save money which may well put bed mates Gray and Scott's noses out of joint? Or shall we close Fire Stations across the county?? Let's face it The Scrap yard fire a few weeks ago showed how important our Fire Service is. It's a no brainer!!! Why let arrogance and egotism get in the way? Ray Vasey
  • Score: 12

9:01pm Thu 3 Jul 14

Russ28 says...

Even if Mr Gray does not know Cllr Payne personally, given he is apparently interested in the future of the Fire Service it seems unlikely he was unaware of who was the Chairman of the Fire Authority. One would also think someone who has been a councillor for Mr Gray's party for almost 4 years could have just received a 'I disagree with him' comment. What's the point in being rude about it? The comments from the leadership seem to indicate they would not mind being rid of Cllr Payne, and in essence already speaking like he has left.

Funny to see the council employing the same 'need more information' obstructing tactic that everyone uses against any decision the council makes itself, genuinely or otherwise.
Even if Mr Gray does not know Cllr Payne personally, given he is apparently interested in the future of the Fire Service it seems unlikely he was unaware of who was the Chairman of the Fire Authority. One would also think someone who has been a councillor for Mr Gray's party for almost 4 years could have just received a 'I disagree with him' comment. What's the point in being rude about it? The comments from the leadership seem to indicate they would not mind being rid of Cllr Payne, and in essence already speaking like he has left. Funny to see the council employing the same 'need more information' obstructing tactic that everyone uses against any decision the council makes itself, genuinely or otherwise. Russ28
  • Score: 10

9:32pm Thu 3 Jul 14

JasonSaxby says...

Gray and Scott aside new fire authority Chairman Chris Devine is the one to be concerned about.
Mr Devine, who works for BAE Systems in Farnborough was confronted about cuts to Wiltshire fire brigade at a demonstration before a fire authority meeting in 2012. Whilst being quizzed about cuts affecting public safety his reply was "my employer is making cuts why shouldn't yours"?
Now Devine has apparently been promised a more senior council role is he becomes Scott's puppet.
Serious concerns have to raised about the political agenda Gray, Scott, Devine are pushing
Gray and Scott aside new fire authority Chairman Chris Devine is the one to be concerned about. Mr Devine, who works for BAE Systems in Farnborough was confronted about cuts to Wiltshire fire brigade at a demonstration before a fire authority meeting in 2012. Whilst being quizzed about cuts affecting public safety his reply was "my employer is making cuts why shouldn't yours"? Now Devine has apparently been promised a more senior council role is he becomes Scott's puppet. Serious concerns have to raised about the political agenda Gray, Scott, Devine are pushing JasonSaxby
  • Score: 15

7:25am Tue 8 Jul 14

€d says...

Resign and become independent Graham, the conservatives will just drag you down
Resign and become independent Graham, the conservatives will just drag you down €d
  • Score: 1

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