Stephen Hepburn MP: Threat to run down fire services is a threat to lives

Hebburn Fire Station.
Hebburn Fire Station.
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The threat to run down fire services in our area is dangerous so let’s all fight to keep the public safe.

Conservative Government cuts are threatening lives, decisions by austerity Tories in London a menace here on Tyneside.

Since 2010 when the Tories stumbled into power they’ve hammered the Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Authority by axing more than £11million and 285 frontline firefighters’ jobs.

Demanding another £3.6million in cuts is recklessly and needlessly jeopardising a first-class public service.

In Parliament I tried to hold the feet to the fire of a Conservative Communities Minister but quite frankly far more productive were meetings with Chief Fire Officer Chris Lowther and Barry Curran, chairman of the Tyne and Wear Authority.

I raised at the talks in Hebburn Fire Station concerns about the recently-announced changes under cost-cutting plans stemming from the government’s budget cuts.

Following the launch of a 10-week consultation I was assured that Hebburn Fire Station will not be affected by a service seeking to save more than £3million in running costs.

Tyne and Wear is rightly proud to have the second fastest response times in the whole of the country.

My fear, and I’ll be honest, is that although I’ve been assured the area will be protected 24 hours, should the Tories continue to cut funding we might be unable to sustain a first class, safe and fast service beyond 2021.

The people of Tyne and Wear deserve better than constant Conservative cuts.

Fire deaths in England increased sharply last year to 334, in part because of the terrible Grenfell Tower inferno, to the worst level since 2010-11.

No service can maintain standards on less and less. It’s just not possible.

Unbelievably since 2010 some one-in-five firefighter jobs have gone while it’s unfair their wages have dropped in value while they’re expected to pay more for worse pensions.

Tory austerity is a vicious, sustained assault on incomes and services.

What’s happening in fire is felt too by schools, councils and of course the NHS where the proposed downgrading of South Tyneside Hospital is absolutely sick.

Austerity’s a failed Tory ideology and we’ll only beat it and them by uniting, standing together for what is good by standing together against the Conservatives.

Just take a look at what the Tories are doing to policing as serious and violent crime goes up since 21,000 bobbies were given their marching orders.

The Conservatives are taking the same cavalier attitude to fire cover as they do to the rest of our vital public services.

The next Labour Government under Jeremy Corbyn promising to recruit 3,000 extra firefighters and 10,000 police officers is a downpayment to end austerity and protect communities like yours.

It’s why we need change, real change.