Planned overhaul of Tyne and Wear fire service could see 54 new firefighters recruited

Tyne and Wear fire chiefs are looking for views on a planned overhaul of services which could see 54 new firefighters recruited.

Monday, 14th June 2021, 6:18 pm
Fire Engine. Source: Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue

Funds have previously been earmarked for the proposed changes, which would see a new fire engine stationed at West Denton Community Fire Station in Newcastle and permanent staffing for another two specialist units.

Incidents such as the 2017 Grenfell Tower fire have been a factor in some of the proposals, which could see the Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS) have two aerial ladder platforms available at all times.

In addition, changes to staffing arrangements are being explored at two fire stations in the region.

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Deputy Chief Fire Officer Peter Heath. Source: Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service TWFRS

The changes at Birtley Community Fire Station, if approved, would see the fire station crewed for 12 hours during the day with fire cover provided from surrounding stations and crews at night.

Meanwhile, proposed changes at Rainton Bridge Community Fire Station are linked to shift patterns but would not result in any reduction of crewing or availability of staff.

Fire chiefs say the proposals represent an investment into the future of the service with the creation of dozens of new ‘high-quality firefighter jobs.’

While there may be ‘slight differences’ in response times in some areas if the proposals are approved, they added that the brigade’s overall average response time would remain unchanged.

Fire Engine Aerial Ladder Platform, Source: Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue

A total of four proposals have been put forward as part of the next phase of the brigade’s Integrated Risk Management Plan (IRMP) for 2021-24.

The IRMP process has been used for the past 15 years to help shape and change the service, drive improvement and enable the service to manage community risk by efficient use of resources.

A report prepared for the Fire Authority on Monday (June 14) said the new proposals would see “continued investment in community safety” while using resources to “match community risk and demand.”

Following a decision by the Fire Authority, the IRMP proposals will go out to full public consultation on Wednesday, June 16.

Deputy chief fire officer Peter Heath also stressed the importance of gathering feedback from the public.

He told the meeting: “It’s a vital and important part of this, not only because the service needs to hear what the public think of the proposals but it is a legal requirement for us to do so.

“But even if it wasn’t, then I would say we would still be doing it because the citizens pay for the service and they have a right to have a voice.”

The eight-week process will involve online and digital platforms and some face-to-face events, subject to guidance around Covid-19.

Comments gathered will inform final IRMP proposals which are expected to return to the Fire Authority for decision in September, 2021.

People can find out more about the IRMP proposals, and take part in the IRMP consultation, by accessing the survey on the TWFRS website.

Chris Lowther, chief fire officer for TWFRS, has also encouraged the public to share their views.

He said: “We deliver a very robust and diverse provision across 17 community fire stations in the region, and it is our obligation to ensure what is provided to the public is of the highest order.

“We are delighted to have some of the quickest response times to emergency incidents in England.

“These submitted proposals will allow TWFRS to adapt to current times and best serve the needs of the community.

He added: “We have reviewed what is required to bring the service in line with our vision for the future, and this is reflected in the creation of 54 new roles over the next three years.

“We would urge the people of Tyne and Wear to have their say over the next two months as we are eager to find out their views on the proposals.”

The IRMP consultation will go live on Wednesday, June 16 and will close at noon on Wednesday, August 11.

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