MAJOR changes could be made to the fire service in a bid to save £12.8m over the next three years.

Under plans, existing fire stations in Bolton North and Bolton Central would be closed, and a new one built in their place to serve the town.

Manchester Central in Thompson Street and Philips Park station would also close, with a new one being built to replace them, and similarly with Stockport and Whitehill.

Further plans include reducing staffing levels to four firefighters on all engines. Under the current system, there are often five crew members on the first engine to arrive at an incident.

Proposals also include the removal of eight second fire engines from stations currently with two engines, including at Manchester Central, Blackley, Heywood, Moss Side, Oldham and Eccles.

It follows a root and branch review of the brigade which was ordered by the Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham last year following the publication of the Kerslake Report — an independent report into the emergency response to the Manchester Arena attack.

During a press conference yesterday, the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) pledged that its proposals will only have a 10-second impact on response time.

They also moved to reassure staff that they will receive improved training and better equipment to enable them to fulfil their roles.

Firefighters could be expected to expand the remit of their roles to encompass youth engagement, prevention, protection and administrative work — roles currently being undertaken by support staff.

Staff were informed about the proposed changes yesterday afternoon.

This programme of change outlines a number of proposals "to put the fire service back on the right footing", according to the Greater Manchester Mayor.

Mr Burnham said: "We inherited a challenging financial savings programme plus issues with poor morale. Things remain difficult. We are looking at significant cuts to Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS). We are operating in an era where there is great pressure on council tax.

"But we are adopting a frontline first approach whereby we are focusing on supporting our frontline firefighters. We are making savings but not at the expense of our firefighters and we have done our best to maintain response times.

"We have already introduced a new shifts system to give crews back a predictable work life, and improvements to annual leave choices.

"The programme will reduce the number of firefighters but we want to recruit at the frontline to reduce the number of vacancies. We are making savings in a much more manageable way."

The GMCA said there will be no compulsory redundancies of firefighters and the proposals will guarantee 47 fire engines day and night across the city, compared with the 50 currently available on average.

As part of the review, the GMCA visited the city's 40 plus fire stations to engage with crews about the service.

It comes as GMFRS has to make £12.8m in savings in the next three years, of which £6.7m is expected to be made in the first year.

Since 2010, central government has cut funding to GMFRS by more than £20m.

The central government grant accounts for 55 per cent of funding for the fire service, down from 64 per cent in 2010. The rest of the funding comes from precept.

Chief fire officer Jim Wallace said: "I think the timing was absolutely right to take a look at what was going on.

"Many of these proposed changes have already been implemented across the country."

A public consultation will be launched after the review is published today.