Fire chiefs have offered a ‘glimmer of hope’ for threatened fire stations in Tyne and Wear.
Bosses at Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Authority (TWFRA) had been looking at cutting back on firefighters based in Farringdon, Hebburn and Wallsend under cost-cutting measures worth more than £3m.
But - following a late intervention by Labour members of the authority - they agreed to delay a final decision for a year.
Plans for an overhaul of the way crews and equipment are distributed across the region were given the green light.
After the meeting, Russ King, Tyne and Wear brigade secretary for the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), called the decision ‘breathing space’.
He said: “We welcome the authority’s decision but we’ve got to remind people we are still seeing cuts and we’re still seeing losses of 16 posts.
“But what we do welcome is that it’s a period of time to have a reflection to see what we can do in terms of future funding.
The FBU will work with all to try and push for this extra funding.”
Last year, fire chiefs had to defend plans for Farringdon Community Fire Station over worries cuts could compromise safety.
Proposals included having one of the two crews based there become part-time .
There were particular concerns about the speed with which an on-call crew, made up of part-time firefighters living or working within five minutes of the station, could mobilise.
Sunderland councillor Phil Tye said: “I think it’s the right decision. It is just up to us now to justify why they need to come up with alternatives, without impacting on frontline services and the extension gives us time to do that.”
He added: “I sympathise with the fire authority because they haven’t got a good deal, but first and foremost we need our MPs and leadership to be lobbying to fund it adequately.”
TWFRA members were given three proposals to vote on, which were predicted to save a combined total of £3.322m by the end of 2021/21.
The first set of proposals, a reorganisation of crews and equipment due to start in April in Tyne and Wear based on ‘risk and expected demand’ was given the green light.
Implementation of the other two options, covering crewing and shift arrangements was not scheduled to begin until 2020.
If all three options were adopted, it is thought it would lead to 82 jobs being lost and a further 12 created.
Fire chiefs have insisted they expect any job cuts to be handled without the need for redundancies.
Speaking after the decision, chief fire officer Chris Lowther said it would allow ‘the continuation of lobbying for a fairer funding settlement’.
James Harrison , Local Democracy Reporting Service