Fire Brigades Union

Fire Brigades Union

January 06, 2008 19:02 ET

Cleveland Fire Service Cuts and Station Closure Will Increase Risk to the Public and Fire Crews at 999 Incidents

CLEVELAND, UNITED KINGDOM--(Marketwire - Jan. 6, 2008) -

MEDIA EMBARGO: Not for broadcast or publication before 00.01 Monday 7 January 2008

Cleveland fire crews are warning that fire service cuts and station closure plans will increase risk to the public and fire crews. The Fire Brigades Union say Cleveland's Government grant funding over the next three years is the worst in the North East, and amongst the worst in the UK. It takes no account of the Authority's unique, high risk operating environment and will result in the loss of about 60 fire fighter posts.

The fire authority says it needs to make savings of at least 2.1 million pounds. The union says this must not be at the expense of public or firefighter safety.

The union says the Government grant does not take proper account of Cleveland having:

37 of the highest level major accident hazard sites (COMAH sites);

a predominantly urban densely populated area that closely resembles a metropolitan brigade in terms of socio economic characteristics with significant levels of deprivation (43% of council wards in Cleveland fall within the 10% of worst nationally);

the highest concentration of petro chemical sites in Western Europe, many in close proximity to residential areas and shopping and leisure facilities;

a nuclear power station;

the busiest port in terms of tonnage handled in the UK;

thousands of hazardous material vehicle movements by road and rail every day.

The union says the Government needs to urgently review and increase the money it gives Cleveland, taking account of the unique industrial and other risks. It says the fire authority must raise the maximum it possibly can from its council tax pre-cept in the years ahead.

The key proposals include completely closing Marine fire station in Middlesbrough or closing it at night; cutting the number of firefighters on appliances; cut the immediate availability of specialist safety and rescue appliances which will slow down the time they take to get to 999 incidents; downgrade some fire stations and introduce changes which could tie firefighters to their stations for very long hours; abolish station-based community safety teams.

Steve Watson, Cleveland FBU Brigade Secretary said: "Cleveland is not just unique in the UK, but in Europe because of the huge number of the very highest level of major accident hazard sites. We have sites many, many times the size of Buncefield.

"Business pay their taxes too and they deserve the very best in return for their money. And why should council tax payers in Cleveland pay more for a worse service?

"Cuts and closures increase the risk to public safety and everyone knows it. There is a real concern there will be yet another cut in the number of firefighters at a time when our rescue responsibilities are greatly increasing.

"The fire and rescue service is a strategic safety and rescue resource which ensures a high degree of public safety, and these cuts will have long-term and serious consequences. We are no longer only a fire service, but an all-round community rescue service attending a huge array of 999 incidents as well as providing excellent community safety services.

"The longer it takes to get to a 999 emergency the greater the risk to those needing rescue. To reduce the number of frontline firefighters on appliances will also have a direct and serious impact on safe working at incidents.

"Firefighters could be left in the impossible position at 999 incidents of either standing back and waiting until the necessary resources arrive and risking the public, or ignoring basic safety procedures and risking ourselves. This is a well-known risk faced by rescuers.

"Cleveland fire crews have legitimate concerns and strong views about public safety and their own safety. We are particularly aware of these issues at a time when, nationally, firefighter deaths have reached a 30-year high.

"We are the professionals who understand the daily reality of the job we do. We will campaign to defend the service we committed ourselves to when we joined."

Contact Information

  • Fire Brigades Union
    Steve Watson
    07974 506923