Support sought for fight against cuts to fire service

Members of the Fire Brigades Union in Northumberland visited Morpeth as part of its campaign.
Members of the Fire Brigades Union in Northumberland visited Morpeth as part of its campaign.

Members of a union have gone to various towns in Northumberland to seek support for its campaign against proposed cuts to the fire service in the county.

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

The local authority says it 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 and it has focused on making sure the service can still respond to large scale incident or emergencies.

But while there is sympathy for their position from the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), it believes the changes – which also include a reduction in crew sizes responding to incidents – would have major consequences.

Members set up stalls in places such as Cramlington, Alnwick, Blyth and Hexham over the last week, as well as Morpeth last Thursday, and they have created an online petition.

They believe the proposals would place residents, visitors and firefighters at greater risk and reductions across the region would pose further problems as crews from Northumberland and Tyne & Wear are constantly sent out to assist with incidents in their neighbouring territory.

Steve Walker, chair of the FBU in Northumberland, said: “We’ve been very encouraged by the response from the public, who fully understand what we’re trying to achieve.

“Although these proposals have come forward as a result of savage government cuts, we want to know what plan B is if the councillors vote against them.

“The service should set out the other options it would explore, like other services in the country in a similar position have done.”

The petition is available at http://bit.ly/SOFSNorthumberland