Fire crews in Seaham face changes under cost-cutting proposals

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A shake-up of fire crews in Seaham could be on the cards after council bosses backed cost-cutting plans worth £450,000.

Currently, the town’s station is staffed by firefighters working from 7am – 7pm and outside these hours they stay in nearby accommodation so they can respond quickly to night incidents.

But under the proposed changes, fire chiefs could shift to an ‘on-call’ system at night, with staff called into work within five minutes of an alarm being raised.

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.

CFO Errington was speaking at Durham County Council’s Safer and Stronger Communities Overview and Scrutiny Panel yesterday (Monday, January 7), which was asked to give its opinion on three options being considered.

The proposal backed by councillors would see the changes planned for Seaham also implemented in Newton Aycliffe, which currently uses a similar shift system.

It would also see one of the fire crews based at Durham Fire Station, in Lanchester Road, moved to Spennymoor.

CFO Errington said the changes were needed, but also stressed no decision had been made yet.

“We have not made our minds up yet,” he added.

“We’ve got a lot of data and there will be a professional opinion applied to this and 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

James Harrison , Local Democracy Reporting Service