Fire service’s pledge to keep public safe in wake of £3.5million funding shortfall

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Firefighters serving the public across Tyne and Wear are set to be short more than £3.5million over the coming years.

According to the latest audit letter for the Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Authority, up to 2021/22 the service is facing a budget gap of £3.6m.

But auditors were also satisfied the organisation was managing its finances well and that they had received ‘sufficient assurance’ it was working to tackle the shortfall.

According to the document, which was completed by accountancy firm Mazars: “In the 2018/19 budget, the Authority identified that over the medium-term of 2018/19 to 2021/22 it faced a cumulative budget gap of £3.6m.

“The Authority has prudently established an earmarked reserve to match the budget gap of £3.6m so that it can be funded over this period.

“In the meantime, various work streams linked to the IRMP are in place seeking to deliver further savings and improvement.”

Cuts and other savings meant Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service finished the last financial year [2017/18] about £1.3m under budget.

And speaking earlier this year, Chief Fire Office Chris Lowther assured the public firefighters would still be able to keep them safe.

One drain on the fire authority’s resources is an £8.7m debt to the Home Office, due to be repaid over the next 17 years, following ‘the £10.5m historic overpayment of fire injury pensions’.

Speaking at Monday’s meeting of the authority, Coun Richard Bell said: “We can see up and down the country a lot of services are struggling because of cuts.

“Unfortunately, we’ve got a government which is not listening to people – how they think we can fund services without money is beyond comprehension.”

James Harrison

James Harrison , Local Democracy Reporting Service