12 November 2015
A government minister has been forced to defend £2 million in proposed cuts to Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service.
Greg Clark, Local Government Secretary, was responding to questions raised by Ian Lavery, MP for Wansbeck, about the plans to find a further £500,000 in savings, on top of the £1.5 million already made.
The local council has opened up a 12 week consultation process to invite feedback on the plans, which include closing a station, cutting the number of emergency response vehicles form 23 to 21 and replacing traditional engines with smaller appliances.
Mr Lavery said: “Northumberland fire and rescue service made proposals last week further to cut front-line services, which will undoubtedly compromise public safety and the safety of people in the brigade.
“Can the Secretary of State explain how it is in the best interests of the general public for fire and rescue service budgets to be slashed and slashed to the bone?”
Mr Clark insisted: “The honourable gentleman gets it wrong. The National Audit Office recently published a report stating that, financially, fire and rescue authorities have coped well with the reductions.
“We know that there has been a 42% decrease in incidents over the past 10 years, and it is right that all parts of the public sector make savings.
“As it happens, the fire and rescue authorities have made savings of less than the rest of local government.”
The FBU raised concerns about the safety of local residents if the cuts come to fruition.
Guy Tiffin, secretary of the FBU in Northumberland, said: “Firefighters across Northumberland are shocked and deeply concerned at the level of cuts announced and the impact they will have on the safety of the public and firefighters.”
“Northumberland is one of the most rural counties in England with extended times for the arrival of fire appliances to incidents. These reductions exacerbate this problem.