Cleveland fire chief's warning over 'continuous cuts'

A fire chief has raised fears vulnerable people will face safety threats if the brigade doesn’t get more funding.

Friday, 30th August 2019, 16:42 pm
Updated Friday, 30th August 2019, 13:11 pm
Ian Hayton, CFB Risk Manager

Cleveland’s chief fire officer Ian Hayton has written to the six Teesside MPs warning the brigade is “fast approaching its professional bottom line” in 2020/21.

He has urged them to ask the government for “fairer distribution of funding” in the face of “continuous cuts” – and given backing for a briefing in Parliament to discuss bringing more cash to the brigade.

Fire bosses say Cleveland Fire Brigade’s budget has been cut by £7.3million in the past decade – a reduction of 22% – and the number of “wholetime” firefighters has been cut by 36% over the same period.

The letter, dated August 20, says Cleveland’s fire authority has been one of the hardest hit in the UK since 2010 due to “significant and continuous” cuts which “have been unjustly and unfairly applied by government”.

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And the missive, also signed by chairman of Cleveland Fire Authority Councillor Paul Kirton, offered a bleak future if things didn’t change.

It added: “With the anticipated continuous reductions from 2020/21 onwards we are now fast approaching our ‘professional bottom line’ in terms of delivering sustainable community safety services.

“This will inevitably threaten the safety of the most vulnerable people in our communities.”

The joint letter told MPs the brigade had “dared to be different” and “put its head above the parapet” to keep running – with a new operating model, volunteers and use of technology to save money.

It also pointed to brigade’s fastest average response times in the country for fires and its high number of home safety visits across Cleveland.

But the pair called on Teesside’s elected representatives to join forces and lobby for “fairer funding” ahead of next week’s government spending review and budgets for years ahead due to be set in 2020.

More context was also offered to MPs in extra reports highlighting Teesside’s “high risk industrial landscape” – with 15,719 industrial and commercial premises, 30 top tier “COMAH” sites (control of major accident hazards) and five power stations.

“Dwellings are in extremely close proximity to these high hazard industries thereby making the risks unique,” the report added.