Tom Blenkinsop, Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, today (8 February 2014) joined Cleveland firefighters, Fire Brigades Union President Alan McLean and Middlesbrough Labour MP Andy McDonald at a rally at the Bottle of Notes to oppose job cuts and station closures being forced onto Cleveland Fire Authority by the Tory-led Government. These cuts, which form part of the Fire Authority’s Community Integrated Risk Management Plan (CIRMP) 2014-18, are currently open to public consultation.
“Since David Cameron became Prime Minister, Tory Ministers have cut Cleveland Fire Authority’s central government funding by £4million. In the coming four years, they are proposing further cuts which will lead to a shortfall of nearly £6million. This puts fire services on Cleveland at risk; Cleveland Fire Authority is proposing to close Marine station, and to cut 130 firefighting whole-time posts.
“Whilst brigades in the South of England, like Essex, are having their budgets increased by the Tory-led Government, brigades in urban areas and the North are facing swingeing cuts. Cleveland, in particular, faces massive reductions in its funding from central government. This is totally inappropriate, given that Cleveland is the country’s highest risk area with one of the highest levels of deprivation.
“In Westminster, I will continue to campaign for a fairer funding settlement for Cleveland, whether that be for our NHS, for our local authorities, for our police force, or for our fire service. Funding formulae should properly take into account factors like deprivation and risk, rather than being tweaked for party political purposes by the Tories to divert funding to their wealthy heartlands in the South.
“Locally, I will be submitting a response to the CIRMP consultation, proposing alternatives to the Fire Authority in order to minimise front-line job losses. Specifically, I will urge the Authority to:
- Reduce the number of senior managers, encouraging senior staff to exercise pay restraint
- Prioritise the retention of stations and whole-time staffing over capital expenditure on new buildings. In particular, spending on non-operational buildings—such as a new Headquarters—is wholly unsatisfactory.
- Explore sharing buildings, management staff and non-frontline staff with Cleveland Police, local authorities in Cleveland or neighbouring Fire Authorities.
- Minimise the move from full-time to on-call firefighters. It is not satisfactory to replace whole-time firefighters with on-call staff, as on-call staff may take longer to respond to emergencies.
- Abandon its costly, risky, unwanted and unnecessary proposals to spin-off the Brigade as a Public Service Mutual.”
Local residents can respond to the consultation by visting http://www.clevelandfire.gov.uk/have-your-say/ . They are also encouraged to sign the FBU’s petition against job losses and the closure of Marine station: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/oppose-the-cuts-in-cleveland-fire-brigade