Fears grow of cuts at Tyne and Wear Fire as Rescue Service as brigade faces overspend worth more than £650,000
Frontline fire services in the North East could soon be hit with significant cuts, it is feared.
Bosses at Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS) is facing a budget overspend worth more than £650,000 this year.
It comes amid warnings that rising fuel and energy bills, as well as higher-than-expected pay rises for staff, could have a devastating impact on crucial, lifesaving services across the region.
However, job losses or curbs on services are not currently thought to be on the cards.
TWFRS documents have revealed that, at the halfway point of the financial year, chiefs expect the service will end the year £651,000 in the red – blaming the spike in fuel, heat, and lighting costs, overtime payments, and potential pay rises for staff that are still being negotiated.
Firefighters could soon go on strike, with the Fire Brigades Union currently balloting nationally on whether to accept a 5% pay offer – which it has urged its members to reject as it would represent a “significant real-terms pay cut” when compared to the current rate of inflation.
Last month, a retiring North East fire boss warned he had “never felt more fearful for the future of the highly respected and professional service that I love”, as he faces axing up to 50 firefighter jobs amid a cash crisis.
Stuart Errington, the outgoing chief fire officer at County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service, said: “We have been placed in a perilous position by a funding crisis that threatens to cost lives unless the Government acts responsibly.”
A TWFRS spokesperson said it was “too early to speculate” on what cuts it might need to make.
They added: “Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, like other public services, has faced funding challenges. The service, along with the fire authority, has, over the years, had to make difficult decisions with the funds available to us.
“The current forecasted budget deficit will require efficiencies to be identified and any further financial pressures will need to be carefully thought through.
“It is too early to speculate on any specific measures that may need to be taken, however our community can be assured that with any changes, we will always seek to provide them with the best service possible with the funding provided.”