Fire cuts could put Wearside homes at risk, claims union

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Homes across Wearside could be at risk if Government funding cuts force fire service chiefs to axe any more frontline services, says the firefighters’ union.

Tyne and Wear Fire Authority chiefs announced plans to close Sunderland central station in Railway Row in 2013, as they looked to shave around £5million from frontline budgets.

That decision was overturned in February last year, after a campaign by the Fire Brigade Union (FBU), Sunderland Central MP Julie Elliot and the Sunderland Echo.

But in July came news the station was to lose one of its two engines, to be replaced by a smaller Targeted Response Vehicle which would handle low-risk calls such as rubbish fires.

Now the FBU is warning of the effects of any further reduction in central Government funding.

“Tyne and Wear Fire Brigades Union is calling on the Home Office to show a firm commitment to the Fire & Rescue Service following the devastating cuts of around 30% which were imposed by the Department of Communities and Local Government,” said Tyne and Wear FBU brigade secretary Russ King. “As a result of these cuts, the Fire Service nationally have lost up to 6,700 firefighter posts and have seen the closures of 40 fire stations.

“Last year a campaign by the FBU and TUC, along with the Echo and supported by Julie Elliott, successfully saved Sunderland Central Fire Station from being closed.

“However, due to the draconian cuts forced upon Tyne and Wear, that same station lost a fire fighting appliance along with five others from the service. On top of these cuts to the appliances was the reduction of 131 firefighters.

“The FBU is extremely concerned that if we are subjected to any future devastating cuts to the funding by this Government, it would severely impact Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service’s ability to respond to emergencies.

Today’s warning comes after firefighters from Sunderland Central station took part in a demonstration against public sector cuts in Newcastle.

Firefighter Gordon Chalk said: “Hundreds of shoppers stopped to sign our petition against cuts to emergency services.

“We got over 1,000 signatures in just over an hour and hundreds of leaflets describing the dangers of underfunding our emergency services were issued to supportive shoppers.

“Dozens of firefighters and NHS staff from around the region took part in the campaign and local police on the beat were also stopping to let us know they agreed with our campaign.”