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Peter Robson, Tyne and Wear Socialist Party

At the first consultation session about Tyne and Wear fire service cuts on 21 November I was not reassured one bit about the proposals management have put forward for this service.

There were glossy leaflets and literature handed out to the fifty-strong audience, made up of firefighters – retired and serving – along with members of the public. From the start Alan Robson, assistant chief fire officer, tried hopelessly to allay fears but the anger from people was instantly palpable.

The opening line in the leaflet says: “Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service is ‘creating the safest community’ and our mission is to save lives, reduce risks, provide humanitarian support and protect the environment”. Well, not with these cuts you won’t as one firefighter pointed out!

I was also staggered when Mr Robson (no relation) pointed out that Wallsend station, one of the most deprived wards in the country has one fire engine that finishes at 8pm. The expectation is that if there is a fire and I am burning to death in my house after 8pm, they will contact firefighters and ask them to get to the station as soon as possible.

We were keen to point out to the audience that this was not a criticism of firefighters who have commendably taken strike action in recent years over similar issues but more directed at the management and politicians, who if they have their way, will close the Washington New Town station with the nearest some five miles away!

Finally, it was disclosed that the fire authority, who were ominous by their absence, have £28 million in reserves. We should not even be having these consultations as one person pointed out. When we pointed out that no cuts at all are necessary there was a good response.