Fears grow over cuts to Tyne and Wear Fire as Rescue Service as the brigade faces overspending worth more than £650,000

Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS) bosses are facing a budget overrun of more than £650,000 this year.

It comes amid warnings that rising fuel and energy bills, as well as higher than expected salary increases for staff, could have a devastating impact on vital lifeline services in the area.

However, job losses or restrictions on services are not currently being considered.

Tyne and Wear fire chiefs fear they will be forced to cut services further.

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TWFRS documents revealed that halfway through the financial year, chiefs expect the service to end the year £651,000 in the red – blaming soaring fuel, heating and lighting, overtime payments and potential salary increases for staff that are still being negotiated.

Firefighters could soon go on strike, with the firefighters’ union currently voting nationwide on whether to accept a 5% pay offer – which it has urged its members to reject as it would represent a ‘cut significant increase in wages in real terms” compared to the current rate of inflation.

Last month, a retired North East fire chief warned he had “never felt so fearful for the future of the highly respected and professional service I love”, as he risked to cut up to 50 firefighting jobs in the context of a cash crisis.

Stuart Errington, the outgoing fire chief for County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service, said: “We have been placed in a perilous position by a funding crisis which threatens to claim lives unless the government acts responsibly.”

A TWFRS spokesperson said it was “too early to speculate” on what cuts might be needed.

They added: ‘The Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, like other public services, has faced funding challenges. The department, together with the fire department, had to make some tough decisions over the years with the funds we had.

“The current projected budget deficit will require the identification of efficiency gains and any new financial pressures will need to be carefully considered.

“It is too early to speculate on the specific steps that may need to be taken, but our community can be assured that with any changes we will always seek to provide them with the best possible service with the funding provided.”