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As fire costs soar, politicians refuse to accept closure of Radlett station was a mistake
The cost of running fire stations around Radlett has risen sharply since the village's fire station closed to save money.
Since the closure, in 2006, fire costs at stations in Garston, St Albans and Borehamwood have risen by more than £600,000 a year - around four times the annual saving of shuttering Radlett Fire Station.
Fire chiefs axed the station, despite fierce opposition from residents, saying the move would save about £115,000 a year.
Since then, fire and rescue services have mainly been provided within the parishes of Aldenham and Shenley by crews from Borehamwood, Garston, St Albans and sometimes Harpenden.
However ruling politicians claim there is no correlation between the closure of the Radlett station and the rising costs of surrounding fire stations.
A Freedom of Information Request has revealed that running costs for Garston and Borehamwood over a seven year period, including when Radlett Fire Station was still open in 2005/06, have risen sharply.
Garston's fire station cost £921,131.86 in 2005/06. This increased to £1,099,439.62 a year later. The largest cost was in 2010/11, with a figure of £1,322,622.57, but decreased this year to £1,244,963.97.
Borehamwood’s fire station cost £982,280.31 in 2005/06, but increased to £1,228,267.65 in 2006/07. The largest cost was in 2010/11 at £1,300,254.88, but fell this year to £1,260,456.86.
In direct comparison as to when Radlett Fire Station was open, Borehamwood costs have increased by £278,176, whereas Garston have rocketed to £323, 832.
St Albans Fire Station’s running costs were £2,302,130.35 in 2005/06, but have risen to £2,233,341.76 this year.
Clive Glover, who took part in the campaign to save the fire station, said he believed the data suggested the closure of Radlett Fire Station had had an impact on running costs of surrounding fire stations.
He said: "SOFAR, the campaign group opposing closure was in the process of raising £90,000 when the station was suddenly closed with just five hours notice.
"We had a 7,000 strong signature petition, which would pretty much account for most if not all the residents, asking for the fire station to be saved. We even offered to dip into our own pockets to prevent its closure.
"Although there are always inflation cost increases in providing such services, it is notable that there have been no significant changes to either the Borehamwood or Garston fire stations during this period which could explain the increases.
"The major change was the closure of Radlett and the consequent increase in workload on the crews and their equipment, and it is hard not to conclude that most of the extra costs, which increased at exactly the time Radlett was closed, are as a direct result of this.
"The only conclusion can be that the Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service has failed to make the savings envisaged from closing Radlett Fire Station as the costs of providing the service from the two nearest fire stations are now more than £600,000 per annum - more than when it was open.
"It also seems unlikely that the annual cost of continuing to run Radlett Fire Station would have caused the total costs for the three stations to increase this any further.
"It seems therefore that the residents of Radlett were justified in wanting to keep their fire station open and their scepticism about the reasons it was closed."
But Hertfordshire County Council has denied that the increasing costs of Garston and Borehamwood have anything to do with the closure of Radlett Fire Station.
Conservative Councillor Richard Thake said: "The rise in the cost of operating Borehamwood, Garston and St Albans fire stations has nothing to do with the sale of Radlett fire station.
"In 2005/2006 a national fire fighter strike resulted in firefighter salaries increasing significantly nationwide which meant a sharp increase in the operating costs of fire stations in Hertfordshire.
"During this time we saw a 30 per cent increase in staff costs, however since 2009 these costs have steadied year on year and in the last year reduced slightly.
"There is also no correlation between the number of calls taken by the fire fighters at Garston and St Albans, Borehamwood. All crews are whole-time salaried members of staff and their pay is not affected by call volumes."