Fire chiefs’s fears for budget cuts

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A NORTH East fire chief fears new swingeing spending cuts will put lives at risk.

Tyne and Wear Fire Authority is facing up to £14million of further cutbacks, in addition to the £4.5million already taken.

Now, the region’s chief fire officer Tom Capeling has raised concerns about the “unfair and disproportionate” proposals.

“The cuts imposed on Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service and other metropolitan services at the last spending review were disproportionate and unfair. Our reductions were more than twice those in other parts of the country,” he said.

“The fire service is based on responding to risk. We think about risk every day in deciding where our appliances should go and where our staff should go to do home safety checks.

“They go where the risk is.

“It’s the safest thing to do and also the most efficient thing to do.

“We target resources at risk locally.

“Since there is greater risk in metropolitan areas, we cannot understand why the same principle hasn’t been applied in distributing cuts at the national level.

“The distribution of cuts thrown up by the funding formula is perverse.

“Further disproportionate cuts will impact on the front-line service, not only in terms of response, but also prevention and protection.

“This could increase the risk to people’s lives.”

The comments came after Lord Alton of Liverpool asked a question in the House of Lords in relation to cuts to metropolitan services.

It was raised after extensive lobbying by the services, including meetings with lords and the new fire minister.

Met services have already faced twice the national average cut in Government grant, despite acceptance this would have a disproportionate effect upon the poorest.

No risk assessment was completed after the grant formula had been applied and relatively wealthy, lower-risk areas received increases while the most deprived, high-risk areas received the biggest cuts.

Houghton and Sunderland South MP, Bridget Phillipson, has tackled the Government over cuts to the Tyne and Wear service, asking the Department of Communities and Local Government for a fair deal.

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