THE chairman of the one of the region’s fire authorities had dismissed reports that brigades could be  privatised as “scare-mongering.”

Robbie Payne, chairman of Cleveland Fire Authority, was responding to concerns raised in parliament by Teesside’s Labour MPs.

Concern was raised over proposals to convert Cleveland Fire Brigade into a public service mutual, (PSM), separating it from the fire authority.

It was condemned as a “step to privatisation” last year and The Northern Echo reported on Saturday that the idea was being considered by a Government minister.

Tom Blenkinsop, the Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland MP, said the PSM could find itself in competition with private companies and the whole service could be undermined.

However Ian Hayton, the brigade’s chief fire officer, has said the financial situation was “dire” and the brigade was facing cuts of £3m.

Mr Payne, also a Labour Hartlepool borough councillor, said: “I would challenge any of our Labour MPs and say, ‘when we get a Labour Government, fund our fire brigade properly.’

"We have the toughest funding and yet are one of best performing brigades in the country.

“As far as looking at these options go, nothing has been decided yet but we have a choice of sitting back and virtually allowing ourselves to die, or do something about it. At this stage you are always going to get scaremongering about privatisation, but it’s not right.”