Fire chief reacts to funding claim
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