Sunderland Labour Group will today [16 Nov] call on opposition councillors to back a motion demanding the government ‘properly fund’ the Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS).

The motion, which will be submitted at full council, follows TWFRS estimates that the government’s failure to match funding in-line with the 10.1% rate of inflation will leave the service with a £5million hole in its annual budgets.

The lack of funding also led to the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) this week rejecting an unfunded 5% pay rise put forward by their national employers, with no funding from government, stating that the ‘derisory pay offer falls way short of the annual rate of inflation of 10.1%.’

This has led to Sunderland Labour Group joining forces with local parties across the North East to call on local authorities to demand that the government steps up and supports the fire authority by providing the funding required to prevent strike action and the further reduction of services.

Councillors in Newcastle have already unanimously backed the motion with elected representatives in Gateshead, North Tyneside and South Tyneside also being asked to back the motion during their respective Full Council meetings this week.

Phil Tye, chairman of TWFRS and Labour councillor for Silksworth Ward, said: “It is unbelievable that the government do not see the value of our fire fighters and are refusing to provide the funding required to properly fund the critical services they provide.

“The proposed unfunded pay rise, which doesn’t include a single penny from Government, would mean that even if the 5% pay rise was accepted, it would result in a 5% reduction in services which have already been stretched way beyond their means. It’s no wonder they’re demanding a better deal.”

Following the FBU announcement of its intention to strike, the Home Office has moved to try and prevent workers from joining picket lines by demanding that fire authorities pay for soldiers to replace striking staff at a cost of £4,000 per week, per soldier.

Cllr Tye added: “It is astounding how the government can demand that our fire and rescue services, which have already had their budgets slashed a thousand times over, should be charged £4,000 per soldier to cover for any striking staff.

“The vast majority of soldiers haven’t been trained to rescue people from burning buildings and the vast majority certainly don’t earn £4,000 a week, which begs the questions of where the rest of the money is going and how they think their plans are even feasible.

“Once again, it’s another government policy drafted up on a whim with absolutely no thought given to how – and if – it will work. It really is a sorry state of affairs. Our emergency services deserve better.”

The Institute for Government recently estimated that local authorities in England will be facing unbudgeted costs of up to £2bn as a result of inflation being significantly higher than was forecast in the Chancellor’s Autumn Budget and Spending Review announcements.

This has led to concerns being raised by Sunderland Labour Group that, without extra support from the government, TWFRS may have to once again balance its books by cutting more essential services to vulnerable residents.

Cllr Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland Labour Group, said: “It is absolutely disgusting how our fire and rescue staff are being treated by the government.

“Every day they put their lives on the line to save the lives of others and it’s only right that their heroics are rewarded by a fair pay rise.

“With inflation rising to 10.1%, the offer of a 5% pay rise is absolutely pitiful and if our government have any shred of decency left, they will listen to the calls of each of our local authorities and give our emergency services the funding they require to continue delivering their services.”