Plans to recruit 40 new firefighters gets the green light in near £2m funding drive

An overhaul of fire crews in Tyne and Wear which could see 40 new firefighters recruited has been given the green light.

By James Harrison
Monday, 15th March 2021, 4:25 pm
Chief fire officer (CFO) Chris Lowther of Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS).
Chief fire officer (CFO) Chris Lowther of Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS).

Almost £2 million has been earmarked for the changes, which would see a new team stationed in Newcastle and permanent staffing for a further two specialist units in Sunderland and Gosforth.

Lessons learned from major incidents such as the 2017 Grenfell Tower fire have been a factor in the scheme, which will mean the Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS) has two Aerial Ladder Platforms (ALP) available ‘at all times’.

But chief fire officer (CFO) Chris Lowther was keen to stress the plans were not the product of ‘new money’ available to the brigade.

He said: “The ability to make these proposals has been done through years of careful financial management.

“The proposals are built up from a sound financial footing, based on efficiency savings that we worked hard to achieve over the last four years and beyond.

“It is a fact that the authority’s financial position has in fact got worse since 2010, particularly when we look at core spending power relative to other authorities.”

CFO Lowther was speaking at this morning’s (March 15) meeting of the Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Authority, the organisation which oversees the work of the brigade, which was held by videolink and broadcast via YouTube.

The proposals have been put forward as part of the brigade’s latest IRMP (integrated risk management plan) for 2021 – 24.

This has called for £760,700 for 16 firefighters to crew a new fire engine at West Denton, in Newcastle.

A further £1.151 million will go to fund 24 firefighters to permanently crew Aerial Ladder Platform based at Marley Park, in Sunderland, and Gosforth, in Newcastle.

Assistant chief fire officer (ACFO) Peter Heath insisted while the current crewing system was safe and had seen Tyne and Wear become one of the quickest-responding brigades in the country, the proposed changes could shave even more vital seconds off response times.

ACFO Heath added: “If this is accepted, it would result in 40 brand new firefighter posts being required.

“If ever there was a time when the economy could do with a boost, this feels like it – it’s affordable and it’s sustainable.”

The fire authority unanimously accepted the proposals, which were approved on a trial basis last hear, which will now be put to public consultation ahead of their formal adoption.

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