Cleveland Fire Authority chairman invites Government minister to see impact of cuts

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THE chairman of Cleveland Fire Authority has invited a Government minister to visit the area to see first hand the impact any further funding cuts will have on the service.

The authority’s members have met with Fire Minister Brandon Lewis MP to outline their concerns about the Government’s massive cuts to its funding.

Cleveland Fire Authority had to make cost-cutting proposals which included the closure of Marine Fire Station, in Middlesbrough and the axing of 114 full-time firefighers due to the Government’s £5.758m reduction to its funding over the next four years.

It comes on the back of £4m cuts the authority was forced to make last year.

The members warned Mr Lewis of the impact which future reductions will have on public safety.

The authority’s chairman Robbie Payne, also a Labour councillor on the Headland and Harbour ward in Hartlepool, said: “We believe the Government’s grant allocation to Cleveland Fire Authority is totally unfair as once again we have suffered the highest reduction in spending power of all the English fire authorities.

“We explained to Mr Lewis in detail the substantial fire risks in our area - not least from high hazard industries - and we left him in no doubt how concerned we are that our ability to make further cuts and still protect the public is becoming untenable.

“We asked him to look long and hard at the impact which any further funding cuts would have on our fire service and urged him to call a halt so that public safety is not put at risk.

“We have invited the Fire Minister to come and visit the authority’s area and during that visit we will continue to press home this message.”

Coun Payne and Cleveland Fire Authority member Jan Brunton spoke to the Minister when they attended the Local Government Association conference in Cardiff this week.

The proposals to make the huge savings were presented at a Cleveland Fire Authority meeting last week where around 150 angry firefighters protested.

The plans will also see a review of management structure and back office staff and heavier reliance on part-time retained firefighters and fire engineers.

There was some potentially good news for Hartlepool at the meeting 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 at last week’s meeting 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.