BOLTON’S fire service could be merged with Wigan in a cost cutting measure.

Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service is looking to save £20 million over the next two years and it is believed that one money saving scheme could be to reduce the number of borough managers across the region.

Currently there is one manager for each of the 10 authorities in Greater Manchester, but it is thought that areas could be merged to reduce that number to five.

This could mean the Bolton and Wigan brigades would both fall under the leadership of a single borough manager.

Any posts lost would be done so through officers being moved to other jobs or a process of natural wastage — where people leaving positions are not replaced.

A fire service spokesman said: “Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service is proposing a zero per cent increase in its part of the council tax bills across the region, making the average cost per household less than £1 each week — one of the smallest precepts in the country.

“At the same time the service, which covers an area more than 400 square miles, is also looking to reduce its overall budget by about £7 million in 2014/15 and a further £13 million by 2016.”

Cllr David Acton, chairman of Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Authority, said: “Overall we will have reduced our budget by more than £37 million in the six years of austerity — which is about a quarter of our total amount.

“This kind of reduction requires us to constantly review our organisation.

“As it shrinks we have to continuously look at the number of managers, their workload and our frontline.

"No definite proposals have been agreed as per the savings and we’re considering all options.

“Our partners and local people will be consulted when we have clearer plans.”

Gary Keary, brigade secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, said the union was yet to be officially consulted about the plans but would be prepared to campaign against changes that would impact on their ability to protect the public.

He added: “As the fire brigade union we will always look to defend not only our members’ positions, but the possible service for the people of Bolton, or Wigan, or wherever the changes are.

“We certainly won’t allow financial restrictions to be given as an excuse to reduce fire services for the people who pay for the service, through their council tax.”