North-east fire, police and ambulance services in staffing crisis
EMERGENCY services in north-east England are at breaking point, with fire, ambulance and police services desperately short of staff and equipment because of government cuts.
The Northern Public Services Alliance (NPSA), a coalition of trade unions and campaign groups, will publish a report today laying out the state of the region’s public services after more than five years of Tory austerity.
NPSA will also stage a protest in Newcastle today against the cuts which are crippling emergency services in Cleveland, Durham and Northumbria.
Firefighter numbers have been cut by 20 per cent in the past five years and some areas have also lost a fifth of their engines.
That’s caused response times to shoot up by a minute — which could be the difference between life and death.
North East Ambulance Service is short the equivalent of 118 highly trained paramedics — a vacancy rate of 22 per cent.
Staff regularly have to plug gaps by working unplanned overtime and sickness absence is at a record high, with stress a major cause.
Ambulance response times have also slipped, missing targets.
And in policing, funding cuts in the north-east are higher than the 20 per cent national average, while workrelated stress is causing the level of sickness absence to soar.
NPSA chairwoman Clare Williams said: “Front-line emergency public service staff do an incredibly hard job, which is made harder by the government’s cuts, chronic staff shortages and increased stress at work.
“The trade unions representing workers in public services believe there are alternatives to these destructive cuts to public services.”
She called for a Robin Hood tax on investment banks and speculators to raise £30 billion for public services, and a crackdown on tax avoiders to gather £70bn in dodged taxes.
“These taxes should be used to fund our public services and tackle the deficit caused by the bankers’ crash in 2008,” she said.
Today’s protest will take place from 11.30am to 1pm in Grainger Street, Newcastle, near Grey’s Monument.