70 fire service jobs face the axe as chief sets out plans for £3million cuts to cope with funding shortfall

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Fire chiefs in Tyne and Wear are considering plans which could save more than £3million, cut up to 70 jobs or change emergency cover at a number of stations.

Plans are being considered by this morning to help the cash-strapped service make ends meet in the coming years.

UPDATED: Sunderland and Hebburn fire stations face being downgraded under cost-cutting plans

Before the axe can fall the public are set to be given the chance to have their say through a 10-week consultation.

Chris Lowther, chief fire officer at Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS), said his organisation had already seen its budget slashed by £11.3million – almost a fifth – since 2010.

He added: “We have also had to manage higher costs faced by the Authority such as inflation and pay awards which means we have actually had to make total budget savings across the Service of just over £25m.

“As a result, we need to look at how we resource our operational responsive services, such as our fire stations and control room, to ensure we have the correct balance.”

According to reports prepared ahead of the meeting, TWFRS is currently predicting it will be short £3million from its budget by 2020/21, rising to £3.6million by 2021/22.

This morning, members of the Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Authority, which oversees the service, is due to formally start the consultation, which will run until January 14.

This will include three options to overhaul the organisation:

Proposal One:

Rearrange how crews are distributed across Tyne and Wear based on ‘community risk and expected demand’.

This could see a fire engine and targeted response vehicle (TGV) moved from Washington to Sunderland Central and from Gosforth to Newcastle Central.

It could also see heavy rescue units from Hebburn and Newcastle moved to South Shields and Wallsend, respectively.

Proposal Two:

Introduce changes to crewing arrangements at Wallsend, Hebburn and Farringdon, which is expected to cause an increase in response times, although the service claims this would only be by up to 17 seconds

Proposal Three:

Changes to rotas and reduce to staffing levels at stations

The authority predicts if all three proposals were to be implemented, up to 70 jobs could be cut, although it also claims this could be done ‘without the need for redundancies’.

It adds these changes could be fully implemented by April 2021 and save £3.3m.

James Harrison

James Harrison , Local Democracy Reporting Service