Urgent repairs to Washington fire HQ part of £14million spending needs forcing chiefs to raid savings
Fire chiefs in Tyne and Wear could be forced to dip into their savings to the tune of more than £14million to fund major projects over the coming years.
New fire engines, ‘essential’ repairs to their Washington HQ and a new fire station for Hebburn are among the bills facing the Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS).
Chiefs claim they are further hamstrung by cuts to government funding, as well as a lack of certainty year on year as to how much cash they can expect from ministers.
“I think the position is not sustainable,” said Dennis Napier, strategic finance manager at TWFRS, “we’re expecting our resources to be depleted by £9million next year.
“There’s no other sources of funding available unless we borrow, but you’re just building up pressures for the future unless that’s funded and at this stage we don’t know what will be funded next year and what will not be.
“We’re pressing government all the time for a three or four-year settlement because we need that certainty.”
Napier was speaking at a meeting of the Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Authority, the body which oversees the work of the brigade.
Spending plans approved by the authority predicted major projects would cost £16,908,563 up to 2023/2024, most of which will be paid for from the organisations ‘reserves’.
Gateshead councillor Gary Haley said: “Tax payers need to be aware that because there’s no government grants for capital spending we can only use this money to buy appliances once.
“I think we’re saving up an issue for the future, if we have to borrow we then have to service that debt and when appliances reach the end of their life we then have to replace them again.”
Sunderland councillor Robert Oliver, a Conservative, called speculation about future funding arrangements ‘guesswork’.
Speaking after the meeting, Wayne Anderson, FBU Tyne and Wear secretary: “You cannot deny 10 years of austerity has lost jobs and fire engines and we have an increased risk because of that.
“You cannot lose as many jobs as we have and not have that, that is an extra burned to bear.”