AN MP has hit out at Government cuts to a fire brigade after new statistics revealed an increase in the number of fire calls.
Cleveland Fire Brigade, which has already had its budget cut by £4m in recent years and will have another reduction of nearly £6m by 2018, has dealt with 54 per cent increase in fire calls.
That led Tom Blenkinsop, Labour MP for Middlesbrough south and East Cleveland, to argue the cuts were putting too much pressure on the brigade and meant it could no longer work as effectively to prevent fires.
Mr Blenkinsop revealed the latest quarterly figures showed the total number of fire calls increased from 1,985 in 2012/13 to more than 3,000 in 2013/14. The number of arsons rose from 1,390 in 2012/13 to more than 3,000 in 2013/14.
He said: “These latest figures make for dire reading. Cutting fire fighter numbers not only risks the brigade’s ability to respond to emergencies, but also its ability to take proactive steps such as its community fire safety check scheme.”
Phil Lancaster, Cleveland Fire Brigade’s director of community protection, said that in fact much of the increase in fire calls was due to dry and hot weather causing grass and rubbish fires. However he accepted more needed to be done to reduce arsons.
He said the brigade would be losing 130 full time jobs, but taking on 67 part-time staff. He said: “It’s going to be really difficult but we have got to come up with innovative ways of keeping people safe.”
A spokesman for the DCLG pointed out that Cleveland Fire Brigade had doubled its reserves from £4.9m in April 2009 to £10.8m in April, 2012.
He said: “Deaths from fires in the home are now at an all-time low, yet expenditure has remained broadly the same.”