FIRE chiefs have warned there will have to be “significant changes” to their service as a result of £6m worth of cuts over the next four years.
But Ian Hayton, chief fire officer at Cleveland Fire Brigade, said he believes their proposals to deal with the deep cuts have been designed to have the least impact on communities.
It comes as Cleveland Fire Authority has produced a plan showing how it intends to manage the risks faced by the community in the light of £6m Government cuts over the next four years – a 20 per cent budget cut.
The proposals, which are open to public consultation until February 16, include 130 job losses, reducing senior managers and back office staff and the closure of a fire station in Middlesbrough.
The service would rely more on part-time retained firefighters and fire engines.
Under the proposals, Hartlepool, which currently has two full-time engines at Stranton Station and a retained crew on the Headland, would still have three crews but only one at Stranton would be full-time, the other two retained.
Mr Hayton said it would still mean round-the-clock coverage and the changes wouldn’t come in until 2017-18.
Mr Hayton, who was speaking to Hartlepool councillors inside the council chamber at the Civic Centre, said: “With a 20 per cent cut to the budget there has to be a significant change. You can’t tinker at the edges with that level of cut, on the back of £4m in the last few years. The fat has been cut and this is cutting into the bone.
“We believe these proposals have the least impact on communities, fire safety and the delivery of our services.”
Mr Hayton presented the Fire Authority’s Community Integrated Risk Management Plan, which sets out how the service will balance risks to people, property and the environment against its resources.
Labour councillor Carl Richardson said the cuts aren’t the doing of the Cleveland Fire Authority but the Government.
Labour councillor Chris Simmons added: “The preventative approach has been a huge success, with a reduction in deaths and fires.
“You have become a victim of your own success in a way.”
Mr Hayton said the service is currently seeing its lowest levels of incidents ever and demand has halved in the last 10 years, with 25,000 annual home fire safety visits – and he said the ambition is to maintain that.
He added: “The reduction in call-outs is testament to our preventative strategies.”
For more information about the consultation, visit www.clevelandfire.gov.uk