A NORTH-East fire service is proposing to cut staff and review services to fill a £3.6m funding gap.

Spennymoor Fire Station could be operated by part-time firefighters under the plans being considered by County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Authority.

The number of full-time staff in Darlington could also be reduced, while police and ambulance crews could share some County Durham fire stations.

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Unveiling the authority's strategic plan for 2015/16 to 2017/18, Susan Johnson, chief executive of County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service, stressed that there were no plans to close fire stations or reduce the number of appliances.

She added: "The five proposals that we are consulting on include working with partner organisations and using our current resources in different ways to make £3.6m of savings within the service during the next three years to meet the reductions in the government funding that we receive.

"We have begun this consultation early to provide an extended period of time to speak to and canvass the opinion of everyone affected, from MPs to people living and working in our area.”

The service has already had to find £3.5m of savings over the last three years.

The five proposals include:

- Sharing Barnard Castle Fire Station with police, ambulance and mountain rescue staff; Stanhope and Crook with the police and Sedgefield with the ambulance service.

- Training firefighters to deal with medical emergencies, including heart attacks, bleeding, breathing difficulties, trauma and strokes.

- Reviewing the staffing of the aerial ladder platform appliance in Darlington, including the possible use of retained staff.

- Reviewing the number of emergency response officers - who respond in cars to take charge of major incidents - employed by the service.

- Changing the staffing at Spennymoor Fire Station for the first responding appliance to retained only, rather than full-time during the day and retained at night and over weekends.

Tony Curry, Durham secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, said the union was still digesting the consultation document and would respond to the authority formally in due course.

However, he added: "The FBU always has grave concerns about reductions in the number of firefighters and the cover they provide."

To view the three-year strategic plan document , visit www.ddfire.gov.uk/service-plans where there is a link to the consultation questions at www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/three_year_strategic_plan15-16_17-18

For a hard copy of the document, call 0845-3058383. The consultation will run until December 1.