Fight over cuts to service intensifies

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Members of a union have gone to various towns in Northumberland to seek support for its campaign against proposed cuts to the fire service in the county.

If the plans are approved by county councillors, Haydon Bridge Fire Station will close and West Hartford will also lose a fire engine.

The Northumberland branch of the FBU protesting at West Hartford Fire Station. Picture by Jane Coltman.

The Northumberland branch of the FBU protesting at West Hartford Fire Station. Picture by Jane Coltman.

The local authority says it needs to save £500,000 in its funding for the Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service in 2016/17 as a result of reductions in the authority’s budget by the government and it has focused on ensuring the service can still respond to large scale incident or emergencies.

But while there is sympathy for their position from the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), it believes the changes – which also include a reduction in crew sizes responding to incidents – would have major consequences.

They say the service’s response ability would be worsened and this would place residents, visitors and firefighters at greater risk.

Members set up stalls in places such as Cramlington, Blyth, West Hartford, Morpeth, Alnwick and Hexham in the last week and they have created an online petition.

Steve Walker, chair of the FBU in Northumberland, said: “We’ve been very encouraged by the response from the public, who fully understand what we’re trying to achieve.

“Although these proposals are a result of savage government cuts, we want to know what plan B is if the councillors vote against them.”

The petition is available at http://bit.ly/SOFSNorthumberland