Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Firefighters Warn Cash Cuts Will Put Lives at Risk; Up to 170 Staff Are Facing the Axe

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Firefighters Warn Cash Cuts Will Put Lives at Risk; Up to 170 Staff Are Facing the Axe

Article excerpt

Byline: Andy Hughes

MASSIVE staffing cuts at the Tyne and Wear Fire Service will put lives at risk, it was last night warned.

Up to 170 staff including around 50 firefighters will lose their jobs after the Government announced funding for the service will be slashed by 25% over the next four years.

Unions warned the "barbaric cuts" will put the public's safety at risk, and the service's Chief Fire Officer said he will do everything he can to ensure a high performance is maintained.

Iain Bathgate admitted morale was low among staff but said workers were developing a plan for the Tyne and Wear Fire Authority on where cuts should be made. He said: "Obviously people are disappointed and are keen to know more details, but at this stage we're hopeful that we can put a plan together so that the public won't be affected.

"However, we are all aware of the world we live in at the moment and we are certainly not the only public service facing cuts.

"I understand what the unions are saying and they are entitled to have their say, but we will be doing everything we can to address the funding shortfall."

Following the announcement yesterday, South Shields MP David Miliband wrote to Government Ministers expressing concern about the cuts.

Mr Bathgate said he is hopeful that most of the posts affected will be resolved by "natural wastage", such as retirements.

The coalition Government says the service must save pounds 9m over the next four years, but The Journal understands fire chiefs may be told to save an additional pounds 2m in the coming months, which could lead to further job losses.

The service currently has 884 firefighters and 335 non-operational staff. In response to the announcement, the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) insisted that the service provided to people in the region will suffer as soon as the cuts are implemented in April next year.

Andy Noble, brigade secretary of the union in Tyne and Wear, said: "These measures amount to nothing other than cutbacks. …

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