COUNTY Ambulance chiefs held talks in secret with staff and union members over a controversial plan for a ‘shake up’ of the service back in 1997.

A special working party was formed to look into the issue which could have seen a new ambulance station being opened in Dalton and the closure of others in Barrow and Ulverston.

The closure could potentially have led to the lose of many jobs.

Councillors and staff members confirmed that jobs would indeed be lost if the plan went ahead.

Originally the existence of the talks was denied by Ambulance Chief Alan Donkersley.

However, widespread changes were later uncovered which triggered protests against the plan and the council from ambulance crews and staff.

The talks had touched on the future of Barrow and Ulverston ambulance services and reductions in staff numbers that could save the service £250,000.

The talks were originally denied, but it was also uncovered that the aim was the reduce the budget by a quarter of a million pounds.

Alan said: “We are looking at how to deal with ambulances in the future. We have not talked about specifics but how best to develop the service.

“We have given a commitment that with any changes there will be no issues for staff, we will do it through natural wastage.

“We are looking at realigning the service.”

At the time, many stations needed refurbishment which would cost hundreds of thousands of pounds.

The service would also have to meet new response times.

A spokesman for the largest union, Unison, said: “A working party has met to discuss proposals from management looking at the overall picture of Cumbria’s ambulance services.”

Ulverston Mayor Cllr Dave Miller said: “I am concerned about the future of the station because response times will increase if it is closed. Shutting down two station will mean job losses.”

Protests demanded the security of jobs and voiced the concerns of the staff who would be affected by the loss of their station, as well as fears that response times would increase.