Staffing cuts at Sunderland fire station put on hold - but union is still concerned

Union bosses have cautiously welcomed the news proposed staffing cuts at three Sunderland fire stations have been put on hold.

Wednesday, 8th November 2017, 5:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 12th December 2017, 2:03 am
Sunderland Central Fire Station

But they are warning that the proposals have only been delayed, not abandoned.

The Echo reported last week that the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) had warned the proposals to reduce staffing levels at stations which only have one fire engine would put lives at risk.

The Tyne and Wear Fire Authority was due to vote on plans to cut the number of firefighters at stations with only one appliance from five to four.

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The FBU believed a crew of four would be unable to unable to provide the full range of firefighting tactics a crew of five can.

The union was warning the changes would mean firefighters would be asked to undertake working practices on a daily basis which national guidance stipulates were only for exceptional circumstances.

The proposed changes were due to come into effect from New Year’s Day at Marley Park, Hebburn, Wallsend and Birtley stations.

The changes would then be rolled out to other affected stations - including Sunderland Central and Rainton Bridge - by June.

Now the authority has confirmed a decision on the proposals has been put on hold for another month.

The plans were to be discussed at a meeting of the Fire Authority on Monday, but a final decision has now been delayed until more information about the impact of the plans is available.

A Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service spokesperson said: “At the Fire Authority meeting yesterday, members requested additional information in relation to the implementation of a Change to Crew Levels at one appliance stations.

“Therefore the decision has been deferred until the December meeting of the Fire Authority.”

Tyne and Wear FBU brigade secretary Russ King, said the union was pleased the plans had been delayed, but was still concerned about the effects of the changes.

And he urged Chancellor Phillip Hammond to provide increased funding for services.

“Although we welcome the decision to delay the vote, we are mindful that the proposal has not gone away,” he said.

“The government need to provide proper funding for the fire service if we are to continue keeping people safe.

“They have an opportunity to do so in the upcoming budget.”

The fire authority has blamed ‘significant financial constraints’ for the need to cut staffing costs.