Tyne and Wear Fire Rescue has announced that Sunderland’s fire station is to close, in an attempt to save money.
The decision was made yesterday (January 20th) as part of the cuts to funding. Community operations at Wallsend and Gosforth will also shut and be replaced by a new station at Benton. In addition, 131 frontline firefighter posts will be lost.
However, the Fire Brigade Union ( FBU ) was left “stunned” by the decision and Dave Turner, its secretary for Tyne and Wear, said they were “the most devastating cuts in the service’s history”.
“These cuts will put lives at risk. The government has already cut fire services to shreds, but these new attacks are worse than ever.”
Labour Sunderland Central MP Julie Elliott said she was devastated by the news, claiming she did not believe the consultation on the options was meaningful. She spoke of her intention to write to the fire authority to voice her concerns and suggested a move back to the drawing board to see how the cuts could be implemented and ensure the service’s reserves were used sensibly.
Sunderland will now be without its own fire station for the first time in more than 100 years. In addition, during quieter nights, two fire engines will stand down for up to 12 hours at a time.
Chief fire officer Tom Capeling said it was now a “challenging” time for the service, but that the changes would be rolled out slowly over the next three years. He did admit it would be unable to continue with the level of operation that the fire crews currently provide.
These cuts form part of an attempt to save £13.6 million by 2017.
The FBU also suggested the Tyne and Wear fire authority was sitting on between £25 million and £35 million of reserves, yet chose to ignore the views of firefighters and the communities in Tyne and Wear by making the “most severe” cuts out of the potential options.
Commercial buildings, non-domestic and multi-occupancy premises in England and Wales are already forced to undertake a ‘suitable and sufficient’ fire risk assessment carried out under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.
While the overwhelming majority of premises do this, if the assessment is thought to have been carried out to an insufficient extent, the Responsible Person can face an unlimited fine or up to two years in prison.