Cash strapped Tyne and Wear Fire Service ordered to pay back £10 million

Nick Forbes, vice chair of the Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service is warning of ‘dangerous consequences’ after the service was ordered to pay back £10 million it mistakenly claimed to pay their workers pensions.

The fire and rescue service, which has made savings of more than £22 million since 2010 and lost more than three hundred members of staff, over claimed the Pensions Top Up Grant.

Forbes, who is also the leader of Newcastle City Council, said the move could see “fewer fire safety checks carried out”:

This demand for money from Government adds insult to injury. Not only have we lost hundreds of firefighters since 2010 because of the cuts, but their pay has been capped for the foreseeable future as well.

Now, the Government has decided it will make this situation even worse by demanding millions of pounds more is taken from our fire service no matter how dangerous the consequences.

Which fire stations would the Government have us close down to settle an accounting error their own auditors did not pick up on?.

We have seen recently the real value of our fire fighters, it is time the Government reflected this with a properly funded service and proper pay for firefighters.NICK FORBES, VICE CHAIR OF THE TYNE AND WEAR FIRE AND RESCUE SERVICE

Tower block, West Denton, Newcastle Credit: ITV News

The Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service are currently carrying out safety checks on all properties in the area above six storeys high, in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy.

Meanwhile, bosses are awaiting a meeting with Home Office Ministers to discuss the recent request to repay the overpayment Pensions Top Up Grant.

A TWFRS spokesperson has described the situation as a “significant issue”:

Once these discussions have taken place and the final position has been clarified and agreed by both parties, we will be in a better position to assess any implications on the service and how we might need to address what would be a significant issue.TYNE AND WEAR FIRE AND RESCUE SERVICE, SPOKESPERSON

The £10 million, which is said to have been Credit: ITV News

The £10 million, which is said to have been “claimed in error”, dates back to the period 2006/07 to 2011/12.

The Home Office insists that it has issued clear guidance that sets out what is, and what is not, eligible firefighters’ pension fund expenditure and that it will consider a ‘staged repayment’.

A Home Office spokesperson said:

“It is incorrect to say the Home Office has refused to allow Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service to repay the over-claimed grant over a longer period of time.

“We have made clear to them that, while they are required to repay the money in full, we will consider staged repayment terms.”