Durham fire crew could be moved out of city in cost-cutting move
Firefighters in Durham could be shifted out of the city permanently under cost-cutting plans backed by council chiefs.
Under the proposals, the second crew based at Durham Fire Station, in Lanchester Road, would be moved to Spennymoor.
It would also see a shake-up of staffing arrangements in Seaham and Newton Aycliffe, which is hoped will save about £450,000.
County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service (CDDFRS) is consulting on the scheme as it tries to plug a gap in its finances left by government funding cuts.
“I think everyone thought the cuts would stop after four years,” said Chief Fire Officer Stuart Errington.
“I’m still lobbying with the Home Office really hard to stop the cuts because we’re getting to the point where we’re going to see some really big cuts which will increase the risk to the public.
“I think we’ve done as well as we can to get to this point.”
County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service (CDDFRS) has set a target to cut £448,000 from its budget in 2019/20.
This is to make up for a drop of almost 58 per cent in its government funding since 2012.
Mr Errington was speaking at Durham County Council’s safer and stronger communities overview and scrutiny panel yesterday, which was asked to give its opinion on three options being considered.
These related to staffing levels at Seaham and Newton Aycliffe, which are both crewed by firefighters working from 7am to 7pm.
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Outside these hours they stay in nearby accommodation so they can respond quickly to night incidents.
As a minimum change, fire chiefs are considering moving to an ‘on-call’ system at night, with staff called into work within five minutes of an alarm being raised.
A similar shift pattern is already used in Spennymoor, and it is predicted the change could save up to £350,000.
As well as this, a second option could also see a fire engine from Peterlee sent to Seaham to provide cover at night, although this proposal is only expected to save about £50,000.
A third option - the one backed by county councillors - would see staffing changes implemented at Seaham and Newton Aycliffe, as well as one crew from Durham shifted to Spennymoor.
Mr Errington said the changes were needed, but also stressed no decision has been made yet.
“We have not made our minds up yet. We’ve got a lot of data and there will be a professional opinion applied to this.
“We’re working a lot with staff and the Fire Brigades Union to see if there is an alternative approach to crewing at stations.”
A consultation on the changes started in November and the public have until February 4 to submit comments.
A report on the survey’s findings is expected to be debated by the County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Authority on February 22.
James Harrison, Local Democracy Reporting Service