19% austerity cuts leave fire service with tough decisions
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05 November 2018
Three proposals to balance a rapidly shrinking budget are being put to local people by the Tyne and Wear Fire Authority.
A statement on the authority's website says, "The changes are driven by financial pressures but will prepare the Service for a future that will involve meeting the challenges of a changing demand for its services. They will also help to ensure the service retains its continued commitment to remain sustainable as reductions in funding continue to affect its overall budget."
The chief fire officer, Chris Lowther said, “Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service has faced some of the worst funding settlements across fire and rescue in England since austerity began in 2010. By 2019/20 we will have seen a 19% budget cut by £11.3m to £48.1m. We have also had to manage higher costs faced by the authority such as inflation and pay awards which means we have actually had to make total budget savings across the service of just over £25m.
“As a result, we need to look at how we resource operational responsive services, such as our fire stations and control room, to ensure we have the correct balance."
The three options the public are being asked to consider are:
- Dynamically adjust the distribution and availability of appliances based on risk and demand. Under this proposal, resources including fire engines, special appliances and Targeted Response Vehicles (TRVs) would be re-positioned based on community risk and expected demand.
- Introduce a range of duty systems based on risk and demand. This proposal involves redefining the duty system operated on certain community fire stations to better accommodate relatively lower levels of community risk and incident demand whilst minimising the impact on the speed of response. Attendance times will see a small increase, with average response across Tyne and Wear for high-risk incidents, those involving people and property, slowing by up to 17 seconds. Even with these changes Tyne and Wear would "continue to remain one of the fastest responding fire and rescue services in England."
- Adjust the staffing model to deliver a more effective and efficient use of resources. The third proposal is to adjust the way firefighters and control room staff work. This includes a reduction in some posts to improve efficiency and the introduction of more flexibility in existing shift patterns based on emergency call demand.
If all three proposals were implemented in full, 70 posts would be removed from the Service and it is expected that this would be achieved without the need for redundancies. The changes would result in savings of £3.3m if fully implemented by April 2021.
Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service