Sharon Hodgson, MP for Washington and Sunderland West held a debate in Westminster Hall on Wednesday 23 November 2022, about fire services in the North East. She said that over the last 12 years, her local Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS) has had to do “an impossible job,” “cutting back on everything they could”. She warned that if there is not a change to the way fire services are funded, then services in the North East would be “unprepared for the next crisis we may face.”.
Seven Labour MPs from the North East attended, highlighting the crisis of funding facing their local Fire and Rescue Services. The four Fire and Rescue Services in the North East are; Cleveland, Durham, Northumberland, and Tyne and Wear.
A call for a revision of the fire funding formula
A number of Labour MPs from the North East called for the fire funding formula to be revised, so that it takes into account deprivation as a risk factor. This was the case under the last Labour government and it was changed after 2010 by the current government.
In 2010, Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service employed 880 full-time fire fighters, and over 1,000 full-time staff. In 2022, that has dropped to 624 full-time firefighters, and 860 staff employed full-time.
In 2010, Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service’s budget was £59.4 million. If this budget had risen with inflation, it would have reached £84 million by 2022. Instead, the budget has been cut down to £54.8 million.
Nationally, successive Conservative governments have cut the fire service for over a decade, with more than 11,000 roles lost since 2010.
Sharon Hodgson MP for Washington and Sunderland West, said:
“On a community level, these cuts will have consequences. When I visited Barmston Village Primary School in my constituency, two young boys told me separate stories of their family cars being damaged in an arson attack and one young girl told me about a time when she had to knock on a neighbour’s door to tell them that something was burning on their property.
“In previous years, fire services have come out to schools and done talks with the children, explaining the danger of arson and what to do if they see a fire. However, with preventative measures being cut first, it is becoming even more difficult for fire and rescue services to provide that important community outreach.
“The government promised to level up areas like Sunderland, but I fail to see how those promises can continue to be made when basic public services are being starved of cash and millions of working people are facing the fastest fall in their pay in years.”
Sarah Jones MP, Shadow Minister of State for Police and the Fire Service, said:
“We all want to see well paid, well trained, committed firefighters doing the job they love – but this Conservative government is failing firefighters.
Ministers should be doing everything they can to ensure that the fire service gets the support it needs to keep us safe.”