Tories challenged to invest in fire service

Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service.
Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) is challenging the new Tory administration at County Hall to increase fire resources across Northumberland.

In March 2016, the council, then under a Labour leadership, signed off on cuts to the fire service in order to save £500,000 in 2016/17, on top of £1.5million saved over the previous two years.

The changes, which had been through a public consultation, included the closure of Haydon Bridge Fire Station and the removal of the retained appliance at West Hartford Fire Station in Cramlington.

At the time, Conservative leader Peter Jackson said: “The chickens are coming home to roost because of the decisions this administration made in the budget, which were to cut frontline services while going on a wild capital spending spree. You can’t say this is all down to the Government, it’s down to the conscious choices this administration has made.”

The Conservative manifesto for the county-council elections in May made no specific pledges on the fire service, but it did criticise Labour’s borrowing ‘which has meant less money for the everyday important things like (...) local fire services’.

Guy Tiffen, brigade secretary for the FBU in Northumberland, said: “We will look to the new administration to enhance the current fire cover provision in Northumberland and, given the fact that the Conservative opposition at the time stated that they would not have closed Haydon Bridge fire station or remove the West Hartford’s retained fire engine, we will be campaigning vigorously to have those resources reinstated so that we can return to what is an acceptable level of fire cover in our county.”

A Conservative spokesman said that the new administration is currently reviewing the council’s finances.