A fire service boss has defended the £127 million cost of 11 new fire stations for Staffordshire following criticism.
Staffordshire Fire Service is planning to build the stations under the Private Finance Initiative (PFI).
Stations being rebuilt include Codsall, Kinver, Stone, Rugeley, Penkridge, Chase Terrace and Lichfield, along with three others in the north of the county while a new building will go up at Loggerheads, near Eccleshall.
It is the second such scheme in the county in recent years, with stations at Cannock and Stafford’s Rising Brook already completed.
Construction costs for the second phase will come to £29.6m but paying it back will come to £127m under the 25-year arrangement.
Len Bloomer, chairman of Stoke on Trent and Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Authority, has defended the method chosen to finance the new buildings.
It comes after South Staffordshire MP Gavin Williamson and Cannock Chase Council leader Councillor George Adamson expressed their concerns.
Mr Bloomer said: “These fire stations are not just a shinier version of the old ones. They are truly community fire stations and give the service a great opportunity to work with the community and schools to continue to reduce fires and offer advice and preventative measures along with all our partners who will also be using the facilities.
“The process through which the contract for the new fire stations was concluded and the content of that contract take account of how things have moved on since those earlier PFI schemes and a lot of the failings of those past contracts have been rectified.
“Back in 2007/8 we were offered the opportunity of having a second PFI scheme because, I believe, the Labour Government of the day were impressed with the way in which we conducted the lengthy proceedings and worked with the Department for Communities and Local Government to secure our first PFI project.”
Under PFI schemes, private companies are used to fund new public buildings, such as schools or hospitals.
Public bodies then repay them with interest over an agreed period. Usually, PFI involves paying the private companies to maintain the sites over the life of the deal.
The Government had reviewed all PFI schemes in the pipeline due to concerns about whether they provided value for money. Funding was however granted for the fire stations project in June last year.
Mr Bloomer added: “As we know 2009 saw a change of Government who shortly after coming into office put a stop on all PFI schemes until they were convinced that they were cost effected, sustainable and value for money in terms of the expenditure of public funds.
“After a lengthy investigation of the schemes in the pipeline we were given approval to go ahead by the present Government.”