New fire chief pledges enhanced service

Peter H. Lothian and borders Fire Brigade local senior officer for mid /east lothain and the borders.
Peter H. Lothian and borders Fire Brigade local senior officer for mid /east lothain and the borders.

The Borders’ new senior fire officer says a single national organisation will improve the region’s service.

But Peter Heath, who was unveiled last week, has admitted that he faces 
making cuts, with £300million having to be slashed from the Scottish service’s budget in the next 15 years.

While the 45-year-old, who lives in Innerleithen, would not speculate on where 
future savings will be made, he says overlapping services with agencies such as the police is one possibility.

Mr Heath, who also has 
responsibility for Mid and East Lothian, told The ­Southern: “There is a reduction in the budget across Scotland and that means I will have to take my share of that cut.

“But in the local action plan we will look at how and why we do what we do, and if there are options to do things in ­different ways.

“I have already spoken to Jeanette McDiarmid, new local police commander for the Lothian and Borders, and it may be that we work closer together with partner agencies.

“You could have a house where four or five agencies enter in the same week.

“Could it be that a social worker who is in the house checks for trip hazards and passes on that information at the same time? We have to consider these options.

“Not only will I be looking to continue the fantastic service in the Borders, but also strengthen it.”

A well-known face in the area, Mr Heath started his career in 1992 at Hawick fire station and since then has worked across the Lothian and Borders area in various roles.

He has spent time as a station commander in Berwickshire, an operating planning manager and head of training and development with the force.

Mr Heath was also acting assistant chief fire officer and latterly spent 18 months helping to reform the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service ahead of its April 1 launch – the same date as the single police ­service comes into force.

Having worked alongside Scotland’s new chief officer Alasdair Hay on the reforms, he is confident Borderers will not notice a difference.

Mr Heath added: “Having seen the discussions and decisions made, I am pleased to say that the service delivered in the Borders will continue to be at a high level.

“By removing the ­boundaries there will be more resources available and less duplication.

“This is a new service, but we are not starting from scratch. Ninety-nine per cent of the key people are in place already and it is just about how we put together this 
action plan.”

Mr Heath, who is currently studying for a master of science degree in human resource management, believes there will be more accountability than before, with Scottish Borders councillors able to grill the officer during pathfinder board meetings at 
Newtown St Boswells.

“Problems in Edinburgh are different from those in the Borders and we can now look at what is relevant for both 
areas,” he added. “Ultimately, if someone from Lilliesleaf calls 999 then they will still get an emergency response from the fire service.”

Priorities for Mr Heath in his new role include reducing fires in the home, cutting the number of road deaths and working closely with local businesses.