Three fire stations threatened with closure due to multimillion pound cuts have today been saved.
Wallsend, Gosforth and Sunderland Central fire stations had all been earmarked for closure as Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service faced saving almost £9m form its budget.
But in a surprise move at a meeting of the Tyne and Wear Fire Authority today it was decided all the stations will remain open.
Prior to the meeting Julie Elliott, MP for Sunderland Central, handed in a 34,000 signature petition against the closures.
In March last year, the Authority announced Sunderland Central station, alongside those in Wallsend and Gosforth, had been handed a stay of execution and would not close until June 2017, with efforts being made to try to find the funds to keep them open.
At today’s meeting it was agreed the stations would be able to remain open due to a council tax precept rise.
The move was greeted with widespread elation from those who have spent more than a year fighting to keep the stations open.
Russ King, secretary of Tyne and Wear Fire Brigades’ Union (FBU) said: “We’re absolutely delighted this decision has been made.”
While firefighter of 15 years Gary Richardson added: “This is the first bit of good news in a long time.”
Campaigners had argued that lives would be put at risk should the closures go ahead and that response times to some of the most serious incidents would suffer.
Following today’s announcement Ms Elliott tweeted: “We did it. After the submission of our petition, the Fire Authority say that no Tyne and Wear stations will close.”
Tom Capeling, chief fire officer for Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, added: “Members have just agreed NOT to close the fire stations in Gosforth, Sunderland and Wallsend.”
However, the 130 posts earmarked to be lost with the closure of the fire stations will still go ahead.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 16 Feb 2015
A North-East fire service is proposing to cut staff and review services to fill a £3.6m funding gap.
Spennymoor Fire Station could be operated by part-time firefighters under the plans being considered by County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Authority.
The number of full-time staff in Darlington could also be reduced, while police and ambulance crews could share some County Durham fire stations.
Unveiling the authority’s strategic plan for 2015/16 to 2017/18, Susan Johnson, chief executive of County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service, stressed that there were no plans to close fire stations or reduce the number of appliances.
“We have begun this consultation early to provide an extended period of time to speak to and canvass the opinion of everyone affected, from MPs to people living and working in our area.”
The service has already had to find £3.5m of savings over the last three years.
– Sharing Barnard Castle Fire Station with police, ambulance and mountain rescue staff; Stanhope and Crook with the police and Sedgefield with the ambulance service.
– Training firefighters to deal with medical emergencies, including heart attacks, bleeding, breathing difficulties, trauma and strokes.
– Reviewing the staffing of the aerial ladder platform appliance in Darlington, including the possible use of retained staff.
– Reviewing the number of emergency response officers – who respond in cars to take charge of major incidents – employed by the service.
– Changing the staffing at Spennymoor Fire Station for the first responding appliance to retained only, rather than full-time during the day and retained at night and over weekends.
Tony Curry, Durham secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, said the union was still digesting the consultation document and would respond to the authority formally in due course.
To view the three-year strategic plan document , visit http://www.ddfire.gov.uk/service-plans where there is a link to the consultation questions at http://www.smartsurvey.co.uk//three_year_strategic_plan15-16_17-18
For a hard copy of the document, call 0845-3058383. The consultation will run until December 1.
Source – Northern Echo, 01 Sept 2014
Thousands of public sector workers went on strike in a bitter disagreement over pay and pensions, as part of the biggest day of industrial action seen in the country for years.
More than 400 schools in the region were fully or partially closed as teachers downed tools during the walk out.
Joining them were home helps, lollipop men and women, refuse collectors, librarians, dinner ladies, parks attendants, council road safety officers, caretakers and cleaners, as well as firefighters, civil servants and transport workers.
Picket lines were mounted outside schools, council offices, Jobcentres, fire stations and Parliament in outpourings of anger over the coalition’s public sector policies.
Nationally, around 1m workers took part in the 24-hour strike, which unions claimed was one of the biggest in the country in years.
The Cabinet Office blamed union leaders for “irresponsible” strikes.
A spokesman claimed most public sector workers had reported for work and “nearly all key public services were being delivered as usual”.
The biggest issue in dispute is pay, after ministers froze public sector salaries in 2010 and introduced a 1% cap on pay rises in 2012 which remains in place.
Thousands joined a march through Newcastle City Centre campaigning against cuts, changes to pensions, pay and work conditions.
Chants of “they say cut back, we say fight back” could be heard as the crowd of teachers, firefighters, health workers, council staff and civil servants led the procession from outside City Pool, near the Civic Centre, as part of the one-day walk-out with teachers also highlighting concerns over children’s education and firefighters raising their fears that cuts risk lives.
Among those lending their support was Blaydon MP Dave Anderson who said: “It’s a really good turn-out. I’m impressed and spirits are really high.
These people do a tremendous job day in day out and we are not looking after them properly. It’s time we did.
“It’s time we said enough is enough. They are at the end of their tether and a cry for help.”
The procession of workers, carrying banners and placards and flanked by mounted police, headed towards Northumberland Street then through the throng of shoppers onto New Bridge Street for speeches on the blue carpet area outside Laing Art Gallery.
Most were delighted at the turnout.
Shirley Ford, 50, an administrative assistant at Marine Park Primary School in South Shields, said: “I was also on the picket line in South Shields this morning and when you’re in a small school it’s hard to sense how everyone else is feeling so this is great to see – and the sun has come out!”
Andy Nobel, executive member for the FBU in North East which is the middle of its own industrial action following the loss of 300 firefighter posts and station closures in the wake of the Government’s austerity measures, said: “Public support during our whole dispute has been fantastic.
“When they’ve heard our arguments there hasn’t been a great deal, if any, adverse public reaction.”
A further eight days of action is expected to be announced.
One firefighter, who did not want to be named, said the chief concern of colleagues was pensions not pay.
Meanwhile, teacher Tony Dowling, 57, the members’ secretary for Gateshead NUT, said: “The main reason is the pension and pay but I’m really on strike because I care about the education of the children.
“Michael Grove is making the jobs of teachers impossible and ruining children’s education.”
Cheers greeted the speakers at the rally who included Nicky Ramanandi, Unison’s deputy regional convenor for public services alliance, who called the national turn-out “the second biggest turn of action since the end of the Second World War”.
Gordon Thompson, a councillor from Newsham ward in Blyth Valley, known for his refusal to pay his Poll Tax, was among the supporters at the rally and stressed the importance of making a stand.
And a familiar face lending his support was local actor Joe Caffrey, accompanying his father, retired Unison member Joe Caffrey senior, who was standing up for service providers whose pensions are taking a hit.
The 69-year-old from Whitley Bay said: “I’ve got a pension but I’m here for the people still working, particularly the young people.”
Picket lines were also formed outside some of the region’s schools and council offices, including Newcastle’s Civic Centre and the Department for Work and Pensions, in Longbenton.
Newcastle’s Grainger Market was closed to the public for the first time in two years because of the industrial action.
Reports suggest there was around 5,000 people at today’s march.
Source – Newcastle Journal, 10 July 2014
One in every five firefighters in Tyne and Wear could be made redundant after the region’s fire service announced proposals to cut over £5 million from its budget.
The authority is consult on three options, including using smaller response vehicles or axing up to six engines.
Option one includes “standing down” engines on quieter nights and reducing fire fighter cover at some stations.
Option 2 would see the same cuts plus the closure of community fire stations in Wallsend and Gosforth with services moving to a new facility at Benton.
A third option sees closures in Sunderland.
If all options are backed then 131 firefighting jobs – 20% of the workforce – would go. An aerial ladder platform would also be lost.
Brigade Secretary Dave Turner said “We have made it clear in all recent discussions with senior managers that we will oppose any further cuts to frontline services.
“These are the most devastating cuts in the service’s history and will mean firefighters and the public will be at far greater risk if these cuts go ahead.
“It also means that areas of Tyne and Wear will be left without cover for extended periods – again increasing the risk to both the public and firefighters alike.”
Fire service bosses will decide on the cuts in January.
Source – Newcastle Journal 23 Oct 2013