Fire chief re­acts to fund­ing claim

The Chronicle - - News - By JAMES HAR­RI­SON Lo­cal democ­racy re­porter [email protected]­

FIRE chiefs have hit back af­ter the Prime Minister ap­peared to dis­miss fund­ing con­cerns raised by a North East MP.

The is­sue was raised at Prime Minister’s Ques­tions (PMQs) on Wed­nes­day by Wash­ing­ton and Sun­der­land West MP Sharon Hodgson.

Mrs Hodgson said cur­rent fund­ing for­mu­las don’t work in ar­eas like Wear­side and risked leav­ing com­mu­ni­ties “per­ilously close to hav­ing un­safe fire and po­lice ser­vices”.

In re­sponse, Theresa May claimed Tyne and Wear Fire and Res­cue Ser­vice (TWFRS) had had its fund­ing in­creased this year and holds sav­ings worth £25m - equiv­a­lent to 52% of its core spend­ing power.

But speak­ing at a meet­ing in Sun­der­land to dis­cuss pro­posed ser­vice cuts on Thurs­day night, As­sis­tant Chief Fire Of­fi­cer Alan Rob­son painted a dif­fer­ent pic­ture. He said: “We’ve got re­serves of £28.5m and of this £24m is ear­marked to meet spe­cific pro­grammes.

“One thing we’ve got in train is the re­place­ment of half of our fleet of fire en­gines.

“We’ve got to do that be­cause some of our en­gines have been sweated a bit more than they should have been.

“We usu­ally re­place them at the 10-year point, but through good ser­vic­ing we’ve been able to ex­tend that to 15.

“But now we’ve got re­place that’s com­ing from re­serves.

“If we don’t do that the en­gines start to cost us more money be­cause they need more main­te­nance.”

TWFRS has also ear­marked up to £5m from its cash re­serves for a new fire sta­tion in Heb­burn.

Sun­der­land West MP Sharon Hodgson

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