Fire Chiefs try to reassure public over Farringdon station cuts
Fire chiefs have attempted to reassure the public that safety would not be compromised in Sunderland by plans to cut costs.
Farringdon Community Fire Station could see one of the two crews based there become part-time as part of a package of proposals to save cash.
In total, it is hoped the scheme, announced last month, could slash more than £3m from Tyne and Wear Fire and rescue Service’s (TWFRS) budgets by 2021/22.
But it has attracted criticism over fears of increased response times and stretched resources.
Barnes councillor Rebecca Atkinson told a public meeting on the plans: “At Farringdon, the second appliance could go on-call. “You say you’re creating a safer community, but seriously, this area would be less safe by you doing that.”
About 40 people attended the meeting at Farringdon Community Academy, including several firefighters, who also raised concerns about the plans.
Their worries included the speed at which an on-call crew, made up of part-time firefighters living or working within five minutes of the station, could mobilise.
They said this could also be exacerbated by queues from the McDonald’s restaurant near the station.
But the TWFRS claims the time it takes for a crew to reach the most serious incidents would increase by just 17 seconds, while it would take an extra 35 seconds for a second engine to arrive, compared to current performance.
Assistant Chief Fire Officer (ACFO) Alan Robson tried to ease concerns about the plans, which could also see a total loss of up to 70 staff across the service.
He said: “I wouldn’t propose anything I didn’t think was safe and we’re working to provide safer screening.
“We’re trying to do the best we can with the hand we’ve been dealt.”
He added: “what we’ve tried to do is protect as much as we can, but to me the alternatives are cutting the number of appliances available.”
He also said the fire service was working with Sunderland City Council to find a solution to traffic problems near Farringdon Community Fire Station.
As well as making one crew at Farringdon part-time, Sunderland could also see one fire engine and a targeted response vehicle (TRV) moved from Washington to Sunderland Central Community Fire Station.
Since 2010, TWFRS has had its budget slashed by about a fifth, down by more than £11m from £59.4m to £48.1.
James Harrison , Local Democracy Reporting Service