Fire authority left without chairperson after councillors fail to reach agreement

A key authority overseeing the fire and rescue service in Tyne and Wear has been left without a chairperson after councillors failed to agree on an appointment to fill the role.

At the first meeting of the Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Authority this municipal year, the opening item on the agenda was selecting a councillor to take the role of chair for 2022/23.

However two Labour councillors, Sunderland City Council representative Cllr Phil Tye and Gateshead Council’s Cllr Gary Haley, each received seven votes to take the position from those in attendance.

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Chris Lowther, Tyne and Wear chief fire officer and clerk to the fire authority, speaking at the meeting, said there was “nothing in the standing orders which prepared for this eventuality.”

Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue HQ.Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue HQ.
Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue HQ.

A second vote was held straight after, with the results remaining the same, which was followed by the meeting on Monday (June 27) being adjourned for around 15 minutes.

When all councillors returned a third vote was held, and again there was nothing to separate the two nominees, who again had seven supporters each.

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It was decided a vote would be held to appoint a vice chair for the fire and rescue authority for 2022/23, in which North Tyneside Council representative, Labour Councillor Carole Burdis, was unanimously selected.

This allowed the organisation to continue the meeting and sign off on the annual governance statement for 2021/2022, as required.

Cllr Burdis then closed the meeting, confirming they will set a date to reconvene to go through outstanding business from the agenda, which will include appointing a chair for 2022/23.

Previously the fire and rescue authority chair since June 2019 had been Tony Taylor, who was a Sunderland City Council representative.

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Mr Taylor was elected to the local authority for Labour in 2014 and served Washington East, but it was confirmed prior to May’s local elections he would be standing down and not seek re-election.

The fire authority is responsible for overseeing the work of the Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service and is made up of 17 members:

:: Four each from Sunderland City Council and Newcastle City Council

:: Three each from Gateshead Borough Council and North Tyneside Council

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:: Two from South Tyneside Council

:: The Police and Crime Commissioner for Northumbria.