Tyne & Wear

Tyne and Wear fire job cuts needed 'to avert cliff edge'

Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service chief fire officer Chris Lowther
Image caption Chief Fire Officer Chris Lowther said he had to keep the service sustainable for the future

Up to 80 firefighters could be made redundant "overnight" if £3.3m cuts are not made, a fire chief has warned.

Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Authority plans to reduce staff numbers via planned retirement.

Chief Fire Officer Chris Lowther said using reserves instead would create a "cliff edge" in the future, leading to forced redundancies.

The Fire Brigades Union claimed the cuts would "put firefighters and the general public at an increased risk".

Mr Lowther said the new way of working would be safe for the public and staff but "less safe than it was in 2010", adding he had to "provide value for money" both now and in the future.

"There is clearly an impact of the staffing reductions we have had since 2010," he said.

The proposals to cut £3.3m over three years, amended after a 12-week consultation, are due to be voted on on Monday.

Increased response time

They include changes to staffing levels, shifts and the way crews and equipment are distributed across the area.

Response times are predicted to increase by 17 seconds for the first fire engine sent to a "level one" risk incident, with a 35-second increase for the second and 27 for the third.

Four control room posts would go, along with 78 firefighters, although 12 new roles would be created.

Assistant Chief Officer Alan Robson said the current 24 fire engines would still be available, "just be crewed in a slightly different way".

The number of firefighters available each day would reduce from 100 to 96, the Local Democracy Reporting Service said.

The Fire Brigades Union said plans for Hebburn's new £5.25m fire station could not be justified in the face of cuts.

The service has lost 131 firefighters and six fire engines since 2010.

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