‘Stealth cuts’ have reduced funding by more than half, claims Durham fire chief

The government has been accused by County Durham’s fire chief of making ‘stealth cuts’ as part of its austerity drive.

Stuart Errington, chief fire officer (CFO) at County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service (CDDFRS), was speaking about the impact of austerity.

Durham's Chief Fire Officer Stuart Errington.

Durham's Chief Fire Officer Stuart Errington.

Since 2012, almost 58 per cent has been slashed from the brigade’s funding for day-to-day running costs.

But at the safe time, government support to buy new fire engines and other vital equipment has been almost totally axed.

Related: Fire crews in Seaham face changes under cost-cutting proposals

Appearing at yesterday’s meeting of Durham County Council’s safer and stronger communities overview and scrutiny panel, Mr Errington was asked about the impact of PFI contracts on the service’s finances.

Almost 58 per cent has been slashed from County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service's budget since 2012.

Almost 58 per cent has been slashed from County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service's budget since 2012.

He said: “I’m pleased we haven’t got more [PFI contracts], because you’re limited then on what you can do with those stations.

“But we look at our overall costs of running the estate as part of budget management and there’s a bigger issue with capital funding.

Related: Durham fire crew could be moved out of city in cost-cutting move

“There is a stealth cut of about £1.3million on top of what [we’ve already seen].

“I’m not worried about PFI, I’m worried about capital spending.”

CDDFRS currently has PFI contracts for its stations at Spennymoor and Bishop Auckland.

The brigade is also consulting on plans to save £448,000 in the next financial year, which could see staffing shake-ups in Seaham, Newton Aycliffe, Durham and Spennymoor.

James Harrison, Local Democracy Reporting Service