A fire authority has heard calls for the government to pay firefighters more amid the prospect of strike action.

Durham's Labour group leader said the area's fire and rescue service was not resourced properly at a fire authority meeting.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has rejected a 2% pay offer and will ballot 32,500 of its members across the UK on whether to launch a campaign of industrial action.

The FBU said the pay offer, not increased despite soaring inflation, represented a "significant real-terms pay cut".

Read more: Firefighters and control room staff to be balloted for strikes over pay

The County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Authority received a letter from FBU general secretary Matt Wrack, saying there was a "unanimous rejection of the proposal" by the union's executive council in July.

Councillor Carl Marshall spoke about the dispute in a meeting of the authority on Friday (September 16.

He said: "I think this needs to be taken in the wider context of 10 years' worth of pay freezes for many public sector workers including the firefighters in Durham and Darlington.

"I think no wonder people are disgruntled with the inflation rates the way they are, and some of the choices the government are making in terms of bailing out billions of pounds worth of profits at energy companies when they can't resource the fire and rescue service properly in County Durham.

The Northern Echo:

"I think as a fire authority we should be writing to the government saying we expect them to do everything they can to offer an inflationary pay increase to fire and rescue service employees.

"But that needs to be intrinsically linked to the way that the fire and rescue authority is funded. We need a properly funded fire service that doesn't just rely on us maxing out council tax and cutting appliances from stations. We need fair pay."

Authority chair Cllr John Shuttleworth, Durham County Council's cabinet member for rural communities and highways, said: "I did write to the new fire minister last Friday.

"We're looking forward to a meeting sooner rather than later."

The Northern Echo: Cllr John Shuttleworth. Picture: Northern Echo.Cllr John Shuttleworth. Picture: Northern Echo.

Cllr Marshall asked: "Are you going to be pushing for a pay increase for the firefighters?"

Cllr Shuttleworth said: "It's getting discussed in a different place. It's getting dealt with at a national level.

"We need government money into the service. We can't afford to take it out."

Cllr Marshall pressed the point: "You're not making a commitment as chair of the fire authority to fight for better pay?

"Chair, do you support a pay increase for firefighters?"

Read more: Teesside Airport workers could strike next month in pay row

Cllr Shuttleworth replied: "Everybody's looking for a pay increase. It's all getting discussed nationally so we'll take it from there.

"All firefighters deserve an increase, but again, we can't make that decision. That decision's getting dealt with nationally and we need funding to go into the service to fund that.

"We can't afford to take it out of what we have."

The pay claims and national industrial relations issues were later discussed further.

But this separate part of the meeting was not open to the public and press on the grounds that it was considering "exempt or confidential information".

Read more: Cost of living - Union warns firefighters using foodbanks


Mr Wrack previously said earlier this month: "Taking strike action is always a last resort but our employers are increasingly leaving us with no choice.

“There is huge anger among firefighters at falling pay.

“Firefighters must be paid fairly – there is absolutely no question when it comes to this.

“It is the responsibility of fire service employers to provide decent pay offers and that has not happened.

“The ball is now in the fire service employers’ court. It is not too late for them to make a much better pay offer for consideration by our members.”

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