Dismay over lack of funding for firefighters serving Hartlepool

Councillors have called for more funding and support from MPs for Cleveland Fire Brigade after cuts faced in recent years.

Monday, 3rd February 2020, 4:23 pm
Updated Monday, 3rd February 2020, 6:08 pm
Cleveland Fire Authority, Queens Meadow Business Park

Officers gave an update on the medium term financial strategy for Cleveland Fire Authority at the recent executive committee meeting.

It comes as for the first time in nine years there will be an increase in funding to the local government sector in 2020/21, which includes fire authorities.

However Cleveland Fire Authority will have the lowest increase in spending power out of all fire authorities across the country.

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From 2015/16 to 2020/21 Cleveland will have seen a 0.1% increase in spending power over the period.

By comparison the highest authority increase over the period is 8.1%.

Officers said if Cleveland had the same increase as the highest authority, they would have £2.2million more recurring funding for services next year, or if they had the average increase, there would be £900,000 more.

They noted this comes as Cleveland has a low council tax base, with 46% of properties in band A, while in the early part of austerity cuts were not equal across all authorities.

Coun Mary Ovens, Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council representative, said: “It’s the same old story sadly with underfunding and having a low tax base.

“We’ve been banging on about it for too long.”

Fire authority chiefs noted they recently wrote to MPs to gain their support with the situation, and a number of meetings have been set up.

Coun Luke Frost, Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council representative, said he hopes the situation will improve.

He said: “I think what it shows is the utter contempt the government has to squeeze every last drop out of authorities such as ours.”

Coun Paul Kirton, chair of Cleveland Fire Authority and Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council representative, pointed to the staff reductions in recent years.

The number of whole time firefighter posts has reduced 36% from 518 in 2010/11 to 330 in 2019/29, while the number of fire control posts reduced from 26 to 16 over the same period.

He said: “That’s what the cuts are actually doing, that’s what it is.”