Page last updated at 09:15 GMT, Monday, 26 October 2009

Fire crew cuts plan sparks anger

Teesside industries
Teesside's industrial landscape is dominated by chemical plants

Union leaders have hit out at plans to cut fire crews at a station close to petrochemical facilities on Teesside.

The Cleveland brigade wants to axe one of two appliances at Billingham Fire Station, which it said was underused and costly to maintain.

The Fire Brigades Union said the move could put lives at risk and mean the loss of 22 frontline posts.

The brigade wants to bring in the changes in April 2010 and said staff would be transferred or retrained.

Steve Watson, Cleveland FBU secretary, said: "This area has one of the highest industrial risks in the whole of western Europe.

"Cutting a fire engine and firefighters means spreading resources more thinly and that means taking longer to get to 999 incidents."

Industrial accidents

Cleveland Fire Brigade said the plan would save about £800,000 a year and that Billingham was the least busy full time staffed station.

A recent review concluded calls could be safely covered from surrounding stations.

A spokesman said the cost per call out from Billingham was more than £9,700 - more than three times that of some other stations.

He added: "When considering the proposal for the removal of an engine a comprehensive safety case was developed with our staff and public in mind.

"It has, at its core, a safe system of work for staff which we believe enhances their safety when dealing with industrial accidents."

The plans have been put out for public consultation until 3 November.

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