Labour MPs disappointed and angry after fire service meeting

Teesside Labour MPs Alex Cunningham and Tom Blenkinsop were left disappointed and angry after the Government Minister responsible for the Fire Service said he could do nothing to stop the huge cuts in Cleveland’s budget.

The meeting was also attended by Cleveland fire chief, Ian Hayton and the Coalition MPs for Redcar and Stockton South.

Alex succeeded in pressing the Minister to meet a Cleveland delegation when he spoke in a debate in the House of Commons, but today Bob Neill told the MPs and Mr Hayton he had nothing to offer.

“We wanted an opportunity to outline the specific challenges an area like ours has to face both with a high density population, many living in deprived areas, and an industrial complex which is recognized as having the greatest fire risk in Europe”  said Alex.

“The Minister listened carefully and accepted the particular problems Cleveland faces but the bottom line was simple enough.  The current formula – which sees Cleveland’s budget cut more than anyone else’s whilst areas like Hampshire has seen an increase – meant there was nothing he could do.  He said that the formula took into account the level of risk and density of population and to change it would mean others losing out.

“Mr Neill did say he hopes a review of the formula and changes in the way that business rates are allocated could help our area in the future.  Whether or not that will be soon enough to stop our Fire Service cutting beyond safe levels, I don’t know but I doubt it.”

Tom Blenkinsop MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland agreed: 
“It was clear that the Minister was wedded to his formula – I only hope that we don’t face the kind of major incident that we have had in the past since these cuts have been implemented.  I am not convinced that a depleted Fire Service will be able to cope the way they have in the past.”