THE CAMPAIGN group North East People’s Assembly and residents met last night to discuss cuts to the Sunderland fire service.
The plans involve scrapping one of Sunderland’s fire engines and could also mean the closure of Sunderland Central fire station.
If the fire station is closed Sunderland will be without a fire engine for the first time since 1908.
Dave Turner, regional organiser for the Fire Brigade’s Union, said that Sunderland residents would be put at risk even if only one fire engine is cut.
He said: “If you take away the fire engine from Sunderland city centre it’s going to take longer to get there – it’s inescapable.”
The residents also voiced their concerns over plans to cut spending in the Tyne and Wear Rescue Service at the meeting.
Tom Capeling, chief fire officer for Tyne and Wear, said in a consultation document released to the public that “the fire authority had been forced to make savings of more than five million pounds due to a reduction in funding by local government”.
The document shows that between 2010 and 2017 the brigade will have suffered a cut in funding of more than 13 million pounds.
But Dave Turner, regional organiser for the Fire Brigade’s Union, said the cuts were unnecessary.
“We believe there’s actually 35 million in [the fire authority’s] reserves.
“It doesn’t have to happen – there is another option as the money is there,” said Mr Turner.
He also criticised the authority’s consultation process, which he described as a “sham”.
The fire authority is required to hold a number of consultation meetings to present their spending plans to the public.
But attendees at the last night’s meeting complained that the meetings had been poorly publicised.
Dave Turner also pointed out that the consultation period had only lasted for eight weeks, as opposed to the usual 12 weeks.
He said: “We need people to go to their councillors. The more the public are involved the better.”
Four of Sunderland’s councillors are members of the Fire Authority, including its chair Labour councillor Tom Wright.
The Fire Authority will decide on the future of the fire station at their meeting on January 20 2014.
The meeting will take place at the Tyne and Wear Fire Service headquarters.
The FBU has planned to protest outside.#####