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75 fire fighters' jobs at risk in Cleveland
ABOUT 75 firefighters in the North-East’s most vulnerable area are in danger of losing their jobs because of budget cuts.
Cleveland Fire Brigade has been warned it will have to find a further £2.5m in cuts next year and brigade chiefs now fear public safety is at risk.
Over the past year, 69 posts were cut from a total staffing of about 700. The job losses included 56 firefighters, but the brigade was able to avoid compulsory redundancies.
However, all fire services have now been given advanced notice of budgets for the next financial year. The figures are due to be confirmed just before Christmas, and Cleveland, along with the West Midlands, is expected to be the hardest hit in percentage terms.
The Northern Echo understands that the area’s MPs will be briefed on the crisis over the next few days as part of a lobbying process, and a meeting of Cleveland Fire Authority will be held at 2pm today.
Cleveland, which covers an area of chemical, steel and nuclear works, has the fastest response times in the country, with a five-minute standard for the first pump to be on the scene, but there are worries that response times could also be affected.
Cleveland’s chief fire officer Ian Hayton has declined to comment before an official statement on the financial position is released ahead of the authority meeting.
Cleveland Fire Brigade recently launched its own trading company, advising organisations and companies about training and risk management, in a bid to cushion its funding deficit from the Government.
It is also evaluating the possibility of becoming the country’s first fire brigade to operate as a social enterprise.
James Wharton, Conservative MP for Stockton South, said savings had to be found from somewhere, but he hoped compulsory redundancies could be avoided. He said: “In difficult times, savings do need to be found, but wherever possible, the front-line service needs to be maintained.”
Tom Blenkinsop, Labour MP for Middlesbrough and east Cleveland, said: “In Parliament last month, I told fellow MPs about how Cleveland, a unique area with significant levels of fire risk, was perversely facing the joint largest cuts due to the Tories’ decision to hit regions like the North-East the hardest.”
Robbie Payne, chairman of Cleveland Fire Authority, told The Northern Echo he would talk to the media after today’s CFA meeting.