Stockton North MP Alex Cunningham spoke out in the House of Commons about the danger of cuts to the Cleveland Fire Authority’s budget and the threat to lives across Teesside.
During a debate on the Comprehensive Spending Review Alex highlighted cuts to the Revenue Support Grant from central Government for fire and rescue authorities of 25% over the next four years.
The effect on Cleveland will be significant, given that 67% of its budget comes from the revenue support grant, with the rest coming from council tax. A 25% cut in Cleveland equates to a reduction in the overall budget of almost £6 million. During the debate, Alex said:
“Our firemen and women put their lives on the line every time the bell goes. They accept their responsibilities quietly and get on with the job, yet they will now face a greater risk to their personal safety if numbers are cut and resources stretched way beyond any reasonable limit.
“I met with the Chief Fire Officer for Cleveland Fire Authority as well as local firefighters in Billingham last week. They warned that cuts on this scale could see our local service compromised. This is especially worrying given that on Teesside we have a large number of hazardous chemical sites. Cleveland Fire Authority has already delivered efficiency savings of £1.8 million over the past 3 years. There is only so much money to be saved through efficiencies, and sooner rather than later the cuts will hit front-line fire services.”
Sadly the Minister, Justine Greening MP, simply brushed aside Alex’s attempts to have Cleveland’s budget reconsidered: “The Minister didn’t listen to a word I said about the risks we face in our area, preferring to lump me together with other MPs who highlighted the dangers to families and others saying I offered no alternative to the Government’s proposed cuts,” said Alex.
Alex has also written to the Minister responsible for the Fire Service inviting him to visit Cleveland and see for himself the challenges the area faces and awaits a reply.