‘Response times will stay second fastest in country’ says fire service chief as £3.6m cuts loom

Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service assistant chief fire officer community safety Alan Robson
Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service assistant chief fire officer community safety Alan Robson

A top fire officer has pledged that fire cover in part of South Tyneside will not be affected by the service bidding to save over £3m in running costs.

Chief assistant fire officer for community safety at Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, Alan Robson was speaking after a 10-week consultation was launched over new plans to change where some appliances are based, the hours some officers work and the loss of 70 posts.

Hebburn Fire Station.

Hebburn Fire Station.

Under consideration are plans which would see Hebburn Station manned by a part-time crew during the day, with evening and night cover provided by firefighters based in South Shields - something which Jarrow MP Stephen Hepburn has raised concerns with.

If all proposals are put into place by April 2021, it is expected that savings of £3.3million would be made.

Mr Robson said: “We have a £3.6million gap in our revenues for the year 2019/20. What we are trying to do is make some changes so that we don’t end up with a financial cliff edge.”

In relation the situation with stations in South Tyneside, he said: “I think there has been some concern that we are running down the cover at Hebburn as a station, but we are not doing that.

A fire engine.

A fire engine.

“The proposals mean that for 12 hours a day, at the moment 8am to 8pm, there is a full-time fire engine on cover.

“After 8pm we would have a standby which comes across from South Shields and that still provides full-time cover.”

Although the proposal document sets out that response times for high-risk incidents could slow by up to 17 seconds, Mr Robson said: “We are the second fastest responding fire and rescue service in the country and after this we still will be, so at the moment we are trying to protect that speed of response.

“That is something we will hang on to vehemently.”

A total of 78 whole-time firefighters and four control posts could go as part of the plans, but 12 “on-call” firefighter posts would be created.

The loss of posts is expected to be achieved without redundancies, with Mr Robson saying “our retirement profile over the coming three years is quite favourable”.

Mr Robson also added: “We are not cutting fire engines.

“We have 24 of the large fire engines as well as special appliances and TRVs and at the end of this process, we will have exactly the same number of fire engines. It’s much harder to bring them back once they are gone.”

People with comments on the consultation can write to Freepost RLZH-ZZYU-LJUJ, Policy and Engagement Dept. Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, Barmston Mere, Nissan Way, Sunderland, SR5 3QY before 5pm on Monday, January 14.

Alternatively they can call 0191 444 1333, email consultation@twfire.gov.uk or go to www.twfire.gov.uk for more information.

Public events in each of the five local authorities directly affected are due to take place soon.

PANEL

Proposals to overhaul Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service are:

Proposal One:

Rearrange how crews are distributed across Tyne and Wear based on ‘community risk and expected demand’.

This could see a fire engine and targeted response vehicle (TRV) moved from Washington to Sunderland Central and from Gosforth to Newcastle Central.

It could also see heavy rescue units from Hebburn and Newcastle moved to South Shields and Wallsend, respectively.

Proposal Two:

Introduce changes to crewing arrangements at Wallsend, Hebburn and Farringdon, which is expected to cause an increase in response times, although the service claims this would only be by up to 17 seconds.

Proposal Three:

Changes to rotas and reductions to staffing levels at stations.

A feasibility study to look at potential new sites is also ongoing.

A report to the Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Authority also revealed a manager has been appointed to oversee a project to replace Hebburn fire station.