Plans to downgrade fire station in Sunderland slammed by councillors who claim there was no ‘heads up’ from service

Farringdon Community Fire Station. Picture: Google Maps.
Farringdon Community Fire Station. Picture: Google Maps.

Councillors have criticised fire service chiefs after claiming they were kept in the dark over proposals to downgrade a fire station.

Earlier this month, Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS) revealed cost-cutting plans which could see the number of stations and fire engines reduced and 70 jobs lost.

Three proposals have been put forward for consultation, which aim to save £3.6million, in a major shake-up at stations across the Sunderland, South Tyneside and Newcastle areas.

This month, fire bosses launched a consultation on the options, which include an overhaul of crews and staffing at community fire stations.

At Sunderland City Council’s West Sunderland Area Committee this week , councillors claimed they had no contact from fire chiefs about the potential changes.

For Sunderland, this includes one of two fire engines at Farringdon Community Fire Station being left “on-call”.

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

Coun Phil Tye, noting the history of fire station closures in Tunstall and Grindon, called on colleagues to “strongly condemn the proposals for Farringdon.”

“This is not against yourselves, I know the hard work and dedication of the fire service,” he told firefighters at the Sunderland Civic Centre meeting.

“I think the consultation, the way it has been done, isn’t respectful of the local community and elected members.

“Especially when there’s a proposal to de-man an appliance at a station we represent.

“Information should be coming back to elected members but it isn’t and that really worries me.”

The councillor, who represents the Silksworth ward, also accused the service of  “getting rid of bad news” by holding the consultation over the winter period.

While plans were revealed to Sunderland city councillors who sit on the fire service’s authority board, the information didn’t get back to ward councillors, the meeting heard.

Coun Darryl Dixon, who represents the St Chad’s ward, added: “What concerns me is the lack of a heads up, it could have been given to the council.

“I would have hoped as a strategic partner we would have been involved at the conception stage.

“We’re sitting here not knowing anything about it.

“I would like to have some sort of input from someone from the fire authority to give us a good explanation of what’s going on and at the very least, to tell me how the consultation was formed, who decided the process and what its going to be.

“Particularly for someone like myself, who has a high number of high-rise buildings in my ward”.

Head of service delivery at for the fire service, Steve Burdis, who attended the meeting, stressed the proposals affected the whole Tyne and Wear service area.

“We’re asking everyone to fill in the consultation paper so ideas can be put forward to take them into account and if if there’s any further ideas to improve the proposals,” he said.

He added that crews would still attend within five minutes with one proposal also aiming to move a targeted response vehicle (TRV) to Sunderland Central to tackle less serious incidents, such as bin fires.

“We’re trying to put our resources where they’re needed to have resources to deal with low level incidents, “ he added.

“The consultation period is out there now for all to see.”

Related content: Delaying fire services changes could cost £60,000 a month, warns chiefs after £3million cuts announced

Coun Tye responded: “The only idea I have got is to change this bloody government , it’s the only chance we have of reversing a decision like this.”

Built in 2004 and opened in January 2005, Farringdon Fire Station, in Northmoor Road, covers areas such as Barnes, Silksworth Close, St Annes Doxford, St Chad’s, Sandhill and Ryhope.

A public event is also set to take place in Farringdon around the proposals with details set to be released at a future date.

A TWFRS spokeswoman added: “Our fire authority met on November 5, and agreed to commence a public consultation on our response proposals which are part of our Integrated Risk Management Plan.

“We launched the consultation that day with information on our website and through both social and traditional media.

“We also initiated wider stakeholder engagement, to ensure key individuals and organisations are briefed on the proposals.

“We’re continuing to deliver these briefings through our normal channels.”

The consultation will close on Monday, January 14 and for more information visit www.twfire.gov.uk or fill out a survey here: www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/IRMP2018 

Proposals to overhaul the organisation are:

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 reductions to staffing levels at stations.

A feasibility study to look at potential new sites is also ongoing.

A report to the Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Authority also revealed a manager has been appointed to oversee a project to replace Hebburn fire station.

Chris Binding , Local Democracy Reporting Service