Firefighters’ campaign halts cuts to fire service in Tyne and Wear

Firefighters cautiously welcome the decision by Tyne and Wear Fire Authority to postpone the worst of proposed cuts to Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS).

After a successful lobbying campaign from members of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), the fire authority agreed to delay proposals to reduce fire and rescue service cover in the area, while moving firefighters to non-family friendly working hours. The delay will give both the fire authority and the FBU time to campaign for fairer funding from Westminster.

This decision came after an extensive campaign from the FBU in Tyne and Wear calling for the fire authority to halt cuts, including a debate in Parliament and sustained lobbying of the fire authority. Outside the meeting, members of Unison, NASUWT, the local Labour Party, councillors and members of the public rallied in opposition to further austerity measures.

Labour members of the fire authority tabled an amendment delaying the proposed cuts until April 2020. Only the Liberal Democrats voted in favour of immediate cuts to the service.

The news comes as central government funding for the service has been cut by a further £3.3m for the coming year. Nearly a third of firefighter jobs in Tyne and Wear have been cut since 2010.

FBU brigade secretary Russ King said:

“I’m extremely proud of all FBU members who have actively campaigned against these cuts. Our fire and rescue service has reached breaking point and the effect of years of brutal austerity has damaged the morale of firefighters.

“This outcome demonstrates that unity is indeed strength. What we witnessed at the lobby was FBU members come together with members of the public and activists from across the Labour and trade union movement to halt these dangerous cuts.

“The FBU have for some time argued that imposing cuts to the fire and rescue service should be delayed, and every avenue should be explored for extra funding. The onus is now on central government to reverse these brutal cuts and provide fair and safe levels of funding for the service.”

In a recent Westminster Hall debate, Tory fire minister Nick Hurd acknowledged that firefighters in Tyne and Wear had been disproportionally affected by the spending cuts. The FBU will now lobby central government for further funding for local firefighters.

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