Tyne and Wear fire bosses halt 'unacceptable' staffing axe plan

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Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service applianceImage source, TWFRS
Image caption,
Up to 54 new firefighters will be recruited under the plans by Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service

Fire service bosses have backed plans to create dozens of jobs and have halted what an MP described as a "completely unacceptable" move to axe a station's 24-hour staffing.

Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service will recruit up to 54 new firefighters under proposals that involve an extra engine at West Denton.

Some would also serve as primary staff on two aerial ladder platforms.

The removal of overnight staffing from Birtley is being reconsidered.

New proposals are expected to be submitted next month.

The Local Democracy Reporting Service said councillors told a Fire Authority meeting there had been considerable public opposition to that move, with just 27% of those who responded to a public consultation on the scheme were supportive.

Councillor Tony Taylor, the authority's chair, said it would be "doing the public a disservice" if they were not reconsidered.

Blaydon MP Liz Twist wrote to the fire service saying she was "extremely unhappy" with the plans.

The Labour MP said: "You will, of course, remember that it is not very long since we lost a second appliance from Swalwell station, also in my constituency, and it seems to me completely unacceptable that we should now see a further reduction in service to the communities in my constituency."

Deemed unlawful

Chief fire officer Chris Lowther agreed to bring back revised plans in October, but pointed out that Birtley's current crewing arrangements could not continue.

The shift pattern, known as "day crewing close call", involves crews working a 24-hour shift during which time they stay in accommodation nearby the station so they can quickly respond to emergencies.

It was deemed unlawful in 2018 after the Fire Brigades Union brought a successful High Court case against South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Authority.

Mr Lowther said that the proposal to reduce Birtley's crewing to a 12-hour day shift only was the "most operationally efficient" option, but that he would return with a new proposition that would maintain round the clock staffing.

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