Firefighters' work through covid pandemic shows they deserve more funding, says chief

The work of firefighters during the coronavirus pandemic has shown why they deserve more funding, according to North East leaders.

Chris Lowther, chief fire officer at Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service
Chris Lowther, chief fire officer at Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service

Crews have spent the crisis delivering food, PPE and other essential supplies and are now even being trained to give vaccinations.

But bosses say they are still struggling to make ends meet, which even a planned increase to council tax bills may not be able to fix.

“What’s been asked of us has changed, but we’ve adapted,” said Chris Lowther, chief fire officer at Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS).

“We’ve not stood idly by when our community needs us most.

“We’re now providing strong evidence for the next [government] spending review that fire and rescue services should be appropriately funded based on the risk in their area, not some arbitrary and discriminatory support grant.”

CFO Lowther was speaking at a meeting of the fire authority, which was held by videolink and broadcast via YouTube.

Earlier this year the brigade was praised by the fire service inspectorate (HMICFRS) for its work during the pandemic

Rapid result lateral flow testing is currently being rolled out to staff, with the service’s HQ at Barmston, near Washington, approved for a test site and plans to extend this to other stations.

Assistant chief fire officer Peter Heath said: “TWFRS staff have been working at the Nightingale, Newcastle Racecourse and the Eagles basketball stadium, as well as continuing with food supplies and PPE occasionally.

“I’m delighted that when we put out a call for volunteers to get involved in some additional work, we had over 140 people come forward within a couple of days.

“As of today (Monday, February 15), we have 10 people trained to deliver vaccinations and they will start administering this week and by the end of today that will be 13 and every week we will offer more and more places.

“So long as we will not take away from our operational responsibilities and delivering our statutory functions, we will continue to grow that to support partners in NHS and across health.”

He added: “Community safety isn’t just about fires.”

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