Tyne & Wear

Under-threat North East fire stations saved from closure

Sunderland Central Fire Station
Image caption Sunderland Central Fire Station had been set to close in June 2017

Three fire stations have been saved from closure in north-east England after bosses backed revised cuts plans.

Sunderland Central, Gosforth and Wallsend stations were set to be axed by Tyne and Wear Fire Authority in a bid to save almost £9m.

It said a rise in the council taxbase and an increase in the amount it receives meant they can be kept open.

The Fire Brigades' Union (FBU) welcomed the news, but said 131 fire-fighting jobs were still set to be lost.

The number of fire engines in Tyne and Wear will also be reduced by six to 24.

'Most welcome'

Councillor Tom Wright, the authority chairman, said the organisation "still faces significant financial challenges ahead which we will need to address".

He told the meeting at its Washington headquarters: "Between 2010-11 and 2017-18, we will have lost a significant proportion of our funding, over £14m.

"The impact and size of the cuts will continue to be monitored to ensure the long-term stability of the organisation."

The authority said it was able to keep the stations open due to an increase in the council tax base and a 1.99% increase in the amount it receives from the tax - together providing an additional £726,000 towards its budget.

Russ King, secretary of the Tyne and Wear branch of the Fire Brigades Union, said: "It's most welcome news. We are delighted with the decision - it came as a total shock.

"However, cuts are still being made across the fire service on Tyne and Wear - 131 jobs will still be going and six fire-fighting appliances will be taken away by 2016-17."

At the beginning of the meeting, Sunderland Central MP Julie Elliott handed in a 34,000-signature petition opposing the closures.

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