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Cleveland Fire Authority agrees budget cuts worth £5.75m that will lead to the loss of 114 firefighters

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SAVAGE £5.75m budget cuts by Cleveland Fire Authority will see 114 full-time firefighters lose their jobs despite huge protests by union members.

Around 150 angry firefighters descended on Cleveland Fire Brigade’s Queens Meadow headquarters to protest about the cuts agreed unanimously by councillors.

The cuts will also see a review of management structures and back office staff, the closure of Marine fire station in Middlesbrough, and a heavier reliance on part-time retained firefighters and fire engines.

Gutted union members - who presented a petition of 11,000 signatures - say it will lead to increased response times leading to more deaths.

Ian Hayton, chief fire officer at Cleveland Fire Brigade, presented the proposals and said the plans had been designed to have the least impact on communities but afterwards he described it as a “lose, lose” situation.

There was some potentially good news for Hartlepool though.

Hartlepool currently has two full-time engines at Stranton Station and a retained crew on the Headland but under the original proposals while the town would still have had three crews, only one at Stranton would be full-time, the other two retained.

Under late changes it was revealed both crews at Stranton could still be full-time. Fire chiefs will carry out further risk assessments to decide whether it is Stranton or Stockton station that remains full-time.

There would still be round-the-clock coverage and the changes wouldn’t come in until 2017-18.

Mr Hayton said: “It is an extremely sad day in the history of Cleveland Fire Authority and Cleveland Fire Brigade. Undoubtedly this is a lose, lose situation. It has forced the Authority into making very difficult decisions.”

Davy Howe, Cleveland Fire Brigades’ Union Brigade secretary, said there was “massive opposition” adding: “As a union we are obviously disappointed.

“Although there was some slight concessions that we welcome, for instance the proposal to keep either Stranton or Stockton’s second fire engine full-time - but we want a 24-7 fire service in Cleveland.”

The FBU had put forward several counter proposals including centralising the headquarters, using more reserves and halting work on the re-build project.

Labour councillor Robbie Payne, Fire Authority chairman, said: “We feel the proposals were the best we could put forward considering that we have £6m cuts to our funding.

“Nobody agrees with the cuts but the financial decision by Government is forcing us into this.”

Hartlepool Labour councillors Carl Richardson and Stephen Akers-Belcher also sit on the committee, while Conservative group leader Ray Martin-Wells sent his apologies.

Several committee members blamed the Government for the cuts and one member’s move to have the decision deferred was not supported.

The 20 per cent budget cut followed a public consultation. It was originally going to be £5.9m and 130 full-time firefighter posts axed but there was late changes.

 

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