Fire service cuts set to be signed off by council

Alex Bennett is due to retire from the role of chief fire officer for Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service in July.
Alex Bennett is due to retire from the role of chief fire officer for Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service in July.

The administration at County Hall has insisted it had ‘no choice’ over a reduction to the Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service’s budget because of Government cuts.

Members of the county council’s cabinet meet on Monday and they will be asked to agree to finalise proposals such as closing Haydon Bridge Fire Station and taking an engine out of the West Hartford base.

They also include replacing retained fire engines at Alnwick (second appliance), Ponteland, Seahouses and Wooler with smaller vehicles.

The principle of making £500,000 of savings was agreed by the full council last month at its budget meeting.

The Fire Brigades Union in Northumberland is opposing the reduction and after more than 10,000 people signed a petition against the changes, it urged the authority to find the required sa-vings elsewhere because they would ‘have a major impact on the service’.

But the council’s deputy leader, Dave Ledger, said: “To say I am concerned about the future is an understatement. We simply have no choice.

“The Government keeps saying we have choices – well I’d like them to tell us what the choices are.

“We’re already protecting this vital service from more severe cuts by funding extra from the wider budget but th-at is being significantly cut.”

Meanwhile, Coun Ledger praised the efforts of Northumberland chief fire officer Alex Bennett, who has announced that he will retire in July. He has been with the county service since 2002.

Mr Bennett said it has been a privilege to lead ‘a superb organisation of dedicated professionals protecting our communities.’