UNDER-FIRE Secretary of State Hazel Blears dared to visit Cheshire despite her controversial decision to split the local governance of the county into two.

The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, who was criticised for giving the go-ahead for Cheshire to be ruled by just two councils, visited Cheshire Fire & Rescue Service’s Winsford HQ to officially launch a unique information-sharing project, which will provide better services for vulnerable, elderly people.

The fire service has worked with agencies including the NHS, Social Services, Age Concern, Cheshire, Halton and Warrington Information Consortium and Business Insight and IT providers to set up a system for sharing information about vulnerable people.

The fire service can target those most at risk with a Home Safety Assessment to address fire and trip hazards by offering free smoke alarms and other advice and support.

And by asking the householders to fill in a form it is also possible for agencies to pick up on other needs and offer support such as Meals on Wheels, help with gardening, information on grants for insulation and help with paying fuel bills.

In launching the initiative Mrs Blears, said: “This is an excellent example of the Fire and Rescue Service spotting an issue and doing something about it.”

Councillor Tony Hooton, chair of the Fire Authority, commented: “My thanks go to our partners who have worked with us to accomplish a truly unique achievement. This project and other initiatives will allow us to target those in most need and to continue reducing house fires, damage to property, fire deaths and injuries.”

During her visit, the Minister spent an hour meeting staff from across the fire service.