10 July 2017
Lives could be at risk after it emerged the number of fire safety inspectors in Tyne and Wear has nearly halved, reports the Chronicle.
In 2005 Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS) employed 31 fire safety inspectors. A reshuffle in 2007 put that down to 26. By 2012, a staffing review slashed the roles down to 20.
Now, in 2017, just 18 inspectors are employed across Tyne and Wear.
TWFRS, which covers Newcastle, North Tyneside, South Tyneside, Gateshead and Sunderland, has been subjected to severe cuts since 2010, and has been forced to make savings of £22m.
This resulted in the loss of 343 members of staff - among them, some of the inspectors who ensure that buildings are safe and comply with regulations.
Coun Forbes, who is also leader of Newcastle City Council, added: “On top of swingeing cuts over the last six years to fire services, they are now trying to take an extra £10m away from Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue because of a national pensions accounting error.
“That’s the equivalent of closing five of our 17 fire stations next year.
“This demand for yet more cuts isn’t justifiable at this time. It will result in further reductions in fire safety across Tyne and Wear. Ministers must think again before it’s too late.”
A Home Office spokesperson told the Chronicle: “We have made clear to TWFRS that, while they are required to repay the money in full, we will consider staged repayment terms.”