The raft of budget cuts imposed on the Cleveland Fire Authority by the Tory-led Coalition shows that the Government is failing to recognise the very specific challenges faced by the Tees Valley, a group of regional MPs has said.
The cutbacks, implemented as proposed by the Chief Fire Officer, could have a devastating effect on the ability of Cleveland Fire and Rescue Service to fulfil their duties, with disastrous implications for local communities.
To deal with the Conservative-led Government’s announcement of £6 million in funding cuts, Cleveland Fire Authority is proposing to lose as many as 60 firefighters across the Brigade, coupled with plans to replace a further 76 full time posts at secondary stations with 60 “on-call” firefighters. Marine Fire Station is also pencilled in for closure, with appliances being reorganised within the Cleveland Fire Brigade area.
A group of Labour MPs representing constituencies served by Cleveland Fire Brigade, including Alex Cunningham, Tom Blenkinsop, Andy McDonald and Iain Wright, have responded to Cleveland Fire Authority’s Community Integrated Risk Management Plan by suggesting that savings could be made from elsewhere within the Fire Authority’s budget to prevent the loss of frontline professionals.
“It goes without saying that making such deep cuts, which come on top of earlier reductions in funding, will pose a significant risk to public safety across the Cleveland Fire Brigade area.
“Having fewer fire fighters manning appliances that may not be ideally located will inevitably increase response times, while the decision to close the Marine Fire Station – which serves one of the continent’s biggest port and petro-chemical complexes – and downgrade several others must impact the Brigade’s ability to maintain the excellent and cost effective service of past years.
“While we are only too aware of the tremendous pressure being put on the Fire Authority, with unprecedented cuts imposed by this Conservative-led Government, we feel that savings could and should be made from elsewhere within the budget to avoid intensifying inevitable increases in risk.
“Full collaboration with local authorities and other public services such as Cleveland Police, including shared headquarters, shared back office services and shared training facilities, have been at the centre of our thinking about the way to reduce costs safely and efficiently, and we have urged the Fire Authority to revisit our suggestions in this area.”