Protests take place over "dangerous" cutbacks to frontline fire services (From Darlington and Stockton Times)
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Rally in Middlesbrough to show strength of feeling against "unfair" budget cuts at Cleveland Fire Brigade
HUNDREDS of people turned up to a rally in Middlesbrough at the weekend to protest against “dangerous” cutbacks at Cleveland Fire Brigade.
Demonstrators met outside the Bottle of Notes sculpture, near Middlesbrough Town Hall, on Saturday to voice their concerns about the cuts the service is facing over the next four years, in the protest organised by the Fire Brigades Union (FBU).
Speakers including national FBU president Alan McLean, Middlesbrough MP Andy McDonald and Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland MP Tom Blenkinsop addressed the crowds.
The FBU says cuts would mean the loss of 130 full-time firefighter jobs, which equates to more than a quarter. Five full-time fire engines will be replaced with part-time crewing, as well as the permanent closure of Marine Fire Station in Middlesbrough town centre, which serves the two highest risk wards in Cleveland.
Davy Howe, FBU secretary for Cleveland, said: “Teesside is more at risk from industrial fire than almost anywhere else in Europe, and these cuts will mean slower response times and a far greater risk to the public and firefighters safety from fire, road traffic collisions and other emergencies, including floods.”
Firefighters have concerns over what they say are dangerous cuts outlined in Cleveland Fire Authority’s recent Community Integrated Risk Management Plan 2014-18 (CIRMP).
The Labour MPs present accused the government of a north-south bias, with southern brigades sucj as Essex having budgets increased while Cleveland faced massive reductions in funding from central Government.
Mr Blenkinsop said: “Tory Ministers have cut Cleveland Fire Authority’s central government funding by £4m. In the coming four years, they are proposing further cuts which will lead to a shortfall of nearly £6m. Funding formulae should properly take into account factors like deprivation and risk.”
Mr McDonald said Cleveland Fire Authority had been put in a difficult position.
“They have received a financial settlement that does not take into account the very special hazards that we face here on Teesside.
“I do not want to see job losses, the closure of Marine Fire Station and less fire engines less able to attend incidents on time. I will be pressing the Fire Authority and the government to think again.”
Local residents can respond to the consultation on the CIRMP by visiting www.clevelandfire.gov.uk/have-your-say/
They can also sign the FBU’s petition against job losses and the closure of Marine station on www.ipetitions.com/petition/oppose-the-cuts-in-cleveland-fire-brigade