Manchester

Greater Manchester budget has £1m 'hole' due to moor fire funds delay

Fire crews Image copyright PA
Image caption Fire services spent weeks tackling the two moorland fires

Greater Manchester's fire service budget has a £1m "big black hole in it" because the government has not decided if 2018's moorland fires spending can be reclaimed, the mayor has said.

Soldiers and extra firefighters were used to fight the Saddleworth Moor and Winter Hill blazes in June and July.

Mayor Andy Burnham has asked to be allowed to recoup funds spent on the response under the Bellwin Scheme.

A spokesman said the government would "respond shortly" to the request.

The government scheme gives special financial assistance to councils facing extra costs due to disasters or or emergencies.

Firefighters from 20 different services were drafted in to help tackle the two huge moorland fires, which burnt for several weeks.

Image caption Mr Burnham (right) visited crews fighting the blaze on Winter Hill in July

Mr Burnham said the two "major incidents... weren't local incidents" but the region was "still waiting for the money that we had to spend to get that situation under control".

He said he felt "at the time that we were battling this on our own", adding that there needed to be "fairness in how the North is treated in comparison to the South".

"If we were in Royal Berkshire or Surrey, I'm sure we'd have been paid by now, wouldn't we?"

He added that Greater Manchester Combined Authority was now "setting a budget for the fire service next year [and] it's got a big black hole in it".

"I can't just sit there and hope that the government will help us."

A spokesman for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said the request for funding under the Bellwin Scheme had been received.

"We are considering the application in conjunction with the Home Office, who has responsibility for fire prevention and rescue, and will respond shortly," he added.

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