‘We are one of the highest fire risk areas, yet we’ve been hardest hit by Government cuts’ – Sunderland MP fighting fire service cutbacks

Bridget Phillipson MP
Bridget Phillipson MP
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A WEARSIDE MP is calling for firefighters to be given a “fairer funding settlement” amid fears over cutbacks.

Houghton and Sunderland South MP Bridget Phillipson is lobbying the Government to implement a scheme she believes will be a more reasonable settlement across the forces.

She said Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service has faced a cut more than double the national average under the Coalition budget reductions, dealing with a 12 per cent drop in cash.

In the Spending Review of 2010, it reduced formula grant funding for fire authorities by 5.8 per cent during the 2010-11 financial year, then a further 0.7 per cent for this term.

Bigger reductions are expected in years three and four to meet an overall 25 per cent reduction in funding.

Meanwhile, some have seen an increase in support.

The Government has said the spending change will give authorities time to adapt and to deliver efficiencies.

So far, the cuts have led to Tyne and Wear losing 68 full-time firefighters, 31 per cent of enforcement staff, 28 per cent of support staff and one pump.

On the basis of a 13.5 per cent further reduction in 2013-15, Ms Phillipson has said 136 additional full-time firefighters would be lost, along with 12 retained firefighters and up to four pumps.

Speaking after the Westminster Hall debate yesterday, she said: “In Parliament, we took a step forward in the cross-party campaign to put pressure on the Government to look again at the funding settlement for fire and rescue services.

“In Tyne and Wear, we’ve seen a recruitment freeze on firefighters for the last two years in addition to the loss of 68 full-time firefighters.

“We are one of the highest fire risk areas, yet we’ve been hardest hit by Government cuts.

“I am concerned that this will put the public and firefighters in danger.

“A new minister has come into the department. I hope he will listen to the arguments made today and put forward proposals for a fairer and more sustainable funding settlement.”

She has been backed by the service’s new boss, Tom Capeling, who has said he is concerned the force will lose its reputation as the fastest in the country, with other fears raised the prevention work put in by the crews could be lost if it is not able to continue.

The Government has previously denied the cuts would cost lives.

Twitter: @EchoEastDurham