Firefighters have raised concerns about “major mistakes” in details given to decision-makers about proposed changes to services.
TheFire Brigades Union has raised concerns about the information put forward by the Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service to members of the fire authority as they preside over three proposals which aim to save £3.6 million in a shake-up of services at stations across Sunderland, South Tyneside and Newcastle by April 2021.
For Sunderland, this includes one of two fire engines at Farringdon Community Fire Station being left “on-call”, while plans for Hebburn could see its station manned by a part-time crew during the day and evening and night cover provided by the team in South Shields.
A total of 78 whole-time firefighters and four control posts could go as part of the Integrated Risk Management Plan (IRMP), with 12 “on-call” firefighter posts to be created and a pledge made for that to be achieved without redundancies.
The proposals have already come under fire from councillors, who said they have been left in the dark over the scheme.
Brigade secretary Russ King said the union has discovered a document given to members contains an inaccurate list of incidents dealt with by each station across the network, which he says is a “major mistake.”
The service has admitted the error, but says it will have “no material impact” on the decision made by the review, which is under consultation until Monday, January 14.
Since this issue was identified senior managers have ensured that the error has been corrected and reported to the fire authority.Assistant chief officer Alan Robson
Mr King added: “Firefighters are absolutely shocked and dismayed at the lack of scrutiny that this document has been given by fire authority members.
“Any document which proposes massive cuts and changes to the fire and rescue service should be subjected to the upmost scrutiny.
“We are deeply concerned that elected officials are sleep-walking into proposals which will cut the service and impact on the safety of the population.
“We see little evidence of fire authority members behaving to the standard expected of them, which is to properly scrutinise the fire and rescue service, and to ensure the public gets the service which they need.
“From the start, I don’t think there has been any scrutiny of the documents from our employer.
“If there’s something wrong here, how much more is wrong?
“The IRMP will mean be a reduction of our fire crews and a reduction in standards and place our communities at a greater risk.”
The service has previously said the changes will still leave it with the second fastest response times in the country.
Barry Curran, chairman of the Tyne and Wear Fire Authority and St Peter’s ward member on Sunderland City Council, said: “Fire Authority members have been closely briefed on the proposals and have confidence in the service’s approach. “While our ongoing consultation with staff and our communities has not been affected by this error, as an authority we take these matters seriously and welcome the service’s actions to correct and validate the data.”
Assistant chief officer Alan Robson added: “Since this issue was identified senior managers have ensured that the error has been corrected and reported to the fire authority.
“In addition, an independent audit has been undertaken to further check and validate the data used in the review.
“No further errors were identified.
“On this occasion our normally high standard of quality assurance did not pick up the error however we can reassure our communities, employees and stakeholders that the affected figures had no material impact on the outcomes or proposals set out by the IRMP review.”
More details on the consultation can be found via www.twfire.gov.uk/about-us/contact/consultation/.