Shock over additional fire service cuts plans

Ponteland Fire Station would have its on-call fire engine replaced with a smaller appliance if the cost-cutting plans are approved.
Ponteland Fire Station would have its on-call fire engine replaced with a smaller appliance if the cost-cutting plans are approved.

A union has expressed grave concerns at the scale of cuts proposed to the fire service in Northumberland.

If the plans are approved, Haydon Bridge Fire Station will close and West Hartford will also lose a fire engine.

In addition, the on-call fire appliances at the Ponteland, Seahouses and Wooler stations would be replaced with smaller engines. A smaller vehicle would take the place of the second retained appliance at Alnwick Fire Station.

The county council needs to save £500,000 in its funding for the Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service in 2016/17 on top of the £1.5million already cut over the last two years as a result of reductions in the authority’s budget by central government.

The organisations say they have worked together to try to minimise the impact on communities, but while there is sympathy for their position from the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), it believes the changes would have major consequences.

Guy Tiffin, secretary of the FBU in Northumberland, said: “Firefighters across the county are shocked and deeply concerned at the level of cuts announced and the impact they will have on the safety of the public and firefighters.

“Northumberland is one of the most rural counties in England, with extended times for the arrival of fire appliances to incidents. These reductions exacerbate this problem.

“The residents of Northumberland are literally facing a postcode lottery in terms of a quick response to a fire or other rescue incident.

“These cuts are neither an intelligent use of resources nor based on the risk across the county. They are based on the slash and burn culture of the Conservative Government which is not prepared to resource and fund fire and rescue services appropriately.”

According to the Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service, the smaller appliances can go to all of the incidents that the larger traditional fire appliances can attend.

Chief fire officer Alex Bennett said: “In developing these proposals, we’ve carried out detailed analysis and used our professional expertise as firefighters.”

The council’s cabinet will discuss the proposed changes and be asked to agree a 12-week period of consultation on the plans at a meeting next Thursday.