Plans drawn up to help fire service save £500,000

West Hartford Fire Station and Northumberland Fire and Rescue headquarters.
West Hartford Fire Station and Northumberland Fire and Rescue headquarters.

Cost cutting changes to the fire service are being proposed.

Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service is looking to save £500,000 in 2016/17 on top of the £1.5m it has already cut from its spending over the last two years.

New proposals have been drawn up which are due to go out to consultation if approved by Northumberland County Council’s cabinet at their meeting on November 19.

Among the proposals being consulted are to remove the retained (on-call) fire appliance – which attended 8.4 per cent of incidents in the last five years – from West Hartford Community Fire Station.

The station would still have two fire appliances staffed round the clock.

Coun Dave Ledger, chair of Northumberland Fire and Rescue Authority and deputy leader of Northumberland County Council, said: “We fully accept that incidents have reduced significantly over the last ten years and thankfully people are safer than ever before from fire.

“However we still have a responsibility to provide a service according to the risk and to work with residents and businesses to prevent fires from happening in the first place.

“We also need to be confident we can respond to any large scale incident or emergency; such as the floods, and dealing with road traffic collisions continues to be a large part of our emergency response service.

“Making these cuts is not something we want to do – we simply have no choice.

“Since 2010, when the Conservatives came to power, the fire and rescue service in Northumberland alone has had its budget cut by £3m, now we have to save a further half a million.

“Even as the country’s smallest fire and rescue service we simply cannot keep on cutting in this way.

“We have a legal duty to provide a service, but it is becoming more and more difficult to sustain, and that’s before we hear later this month how much more we will have to save in the Chancellor’s spending review.

Alex Bennett, chief fire officer for Northumberland Fire and Rescue, said: “The safety of the public and our firefighters is our number one priority.

“In developing these proposals we’ve carried out detailed analysis and used our professional expertise as firefighters.

“Should the proposed changes be approved we will continue to have 21 emergency response vehicles across the county and, through the introduction of smaller fire appliances, in some areas we will be able to increase the cover we provide.

“In developing the proposed changes we have sought to make the required savings in a way which has the least impact on our communities.

“We have looked in detail at incidents our firefighters have attended and the risks; such as flooding and the east coast rail line, as well as the cover provided by our fire stations.

“We have also analysed the location of incidents - many of our incidents are around the main roads - and which firefighters and stations have attended them; this is to ensure there is effective cover across the whole of the county.

“We have already reduced our whole time firefighting resource, our management and back office function so the proposed changes are as a result of a review of our retained (on-call) firefighting service.

“Subject to Cabinet approval we will be carrying out consultation on the proposed changes over the next few months and we welcome people’s views.”

There will be no changes to Pegswood fire station.