Blazing row: Sunderland MP Bridget Phillipson blasts fire service cuts

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MORE than 200 firefighting jobs will be axed by 2015 because of Government cuts, MPs will hear today.

The fall in support will also leave Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service with at least four fewer engines, says Wearside MP Bridget Phillipson, as a debate on funding is held with ministers.

Ms Phillipson will also warn a debate on the crisis that the 12 per cent budget reduction will leave some of its back room departments cut by a third and struggling to cope, as it deals with the cuts, which are more than double the national average.

Lobbying efforts are continuing to try and change a fuel-based funding formula, which sees the North East miss out.

Ms Phillipson will tell MPs that since cuts began two years ago, Tyne and Wear has lost 68 full-time firefighters, 31 per cent of its enforcement staff and 28 per cent of its support staff and one pump.

It will see another 13 per cent cut during the next two years, which will lead to a further 136 firefighters being lost, along with 12 retained officers and up to four pumps.

Ms Phillipson, MP for Houghton and Sunderland South, said she is calling on the Government for a fairer funding settlement.

She said: “In Tyne and Wear we’ve seen a recruitment freeze on firefighters for the last two years in addition to the loss of 68 full-time firefighters.

“We suffer from high levels of unemployment and low wages making us one of the highest-risk areas, yet we’ve been hardest hit by Government cuts. I am concerned that this will put the public and firefighters in danger.

“Preventative measures such as the fitting of smoke alarms will be jeopardised. This is short-sighted.

“Less prevention means more fires.”

She added the service plays a crucial role in responding to national disasters such as flooding, civil disorder and terrorist incidents.

Her warning is backed by fire chiefs, who fear prevention work would suffer.

The service’s new fire chief Tom Capeling has already said he is concerned the force will lose its reputation as the fastest in the country as the cuts hit.

Fire Minister Bob Neill has denied cuts could cost lives, with his department to respond to Ms Phillipson’s claims today.

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