When Labour MPs complain about cuts to the Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service it would be fair for them to also admit some responsibility as the only reason they are proposed is as a direct consequence of the largest peacetime deficit left in 2010.
Adding to the proposed cuts is a local error of £10.5million caused by the over claiming of fire injury pensions, which is costing the service £500,000 a year in repayments for the next 17 years and took £1.8million out of the service’s reserves last year.
One misleading claim being put round is that Tyne and Wear is being picked on for cuts whilst richer areas are safeguarded but the real reason for the disparity in funding is the low council tax base in the region and the consequent reliance on central funding.
Some Labour MPs are now proposing to change that funding formula – used throughout the last Labour Government – and make fire-and police-services even more dependent on central government funding leaving them vulnerable if the money runs out.
Doing this also removes any incentive for councils to address the low council tax base, which is currently being helped by the new North of Tyne Combined Authority which, sadly, three councils have declined to join, forfeiting a share of £600million in funding.
Maybe a Jeremy Corbyn-led government could provide more money for public services but some may begin to question whether a party already promising £1trillion in extra spending is offering just an empty pledge bereft of any sense of financial responsibility.
Councillor Robert Oliver,
Conservative, St Michael’s Ward, Sunderland
Member of the Tyne and Wear Fire Authority