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Cleveland Fire Brigade could but cut by further 27 per cent
THE financial situation for Cleveland Fire Brigade has been described as “dire” by its chief officer.
Government cuts to the brigade could result in a 27 per cent cut in firefighters from 504 to about 420 and the number of engines from 15 to 11, chief fire officer Ian Hayton warned.
Mr Hayton also said the fire prevention side of the brigade's work - the most successful in the country having reduced fires in the area by almost 60 per cent since 2005, could be wiped out.
Cleveland Fire Brigade has major ports, Durham Tees Valley Airport and petro-chemical works and operates in what one Government calculation says is the country's third most deprived area.
Mr Hayton and Robbie Payne, chairman of Cleveland Fire Authority (CFA) will now try to unite the area’s MPs in an attempt to lobby the Government to provide more money.
At a meeting of the CFA in Hartlepool today (Friday, October 19, Mr Hayton explained the authority had already dealt with previous cuts by freezing pay for three years, reducing staffing levels by 12 per cent and developing the authority’s trading arm.
However the CFA has been told it can expect a further cut of £2.5m by next year, nearly £1m more in 2014 and a further £1m in 2015.
Speaker after speaker at the meeting said the formula the Government uses to distribute money between fire brigades was unfair.
The Government does take into account the fact that Cleveland is a high risk area but that only accounts for seven per cent of the formula.
Population levels account for 90 per cent of the budget, and that is a simple head count, not taking into account deprivation levels.
The authority will argue that the way the money is calculated should be rebalanced and point to the fact that Nottinghamshire got a 28 per cent increase in its budget from 2005/06 to 2010/11 and Durham got 20 per cent, while Cleveland’s was the lowest in the country at six per cent.
Mr Hayton, who pointed out his brigade has the fastest response time in the country, told the committee: “The formula is wrong. This is a dire situation, otherwise I wouldn’t be speaking to you.”
Referring to Cleveland Fire Brigade Union (FBU)’s hope that there would be no compulsory redundancies, Mr Hayton told the authority: “Quite clearly you’re between a rock and a hard place. I could not stand up and make the same statement (as the FBU).”
After the meeting Robbie Payne, chairman of the CFA, said: “It’s not about whinging. For example, we’ve got on and developed the business side. It’s about getting a fair slice of the cake.”
James Wharton, Conservative MP for Stockton South, said: “I haven’t been approached yet but I will listen to what the fire authority says and if there’s a convincing and compelling case then, of course, I will look to make representations on our area’s behalf.”