A row has broken out between a North East university and its staff over proposals to reduce the number of security guards working through the night in a city centre halls of residence.
Security staff at Newcastle University’s Castle Leazes say 24-hour hour reception and security service at the student accomodation is under threat in the university’s Accommodation and Hospitality Services Review.
This would mean seven full-time security guards at the highly-populated Castle Leazes site losing their jobs.
But the university says security will not be removed at the site and a member of staff will be based there between 8pm and 8am every night.
David Knox, who has been a cleaner at Castle Leazes for 10 years, raised concerns about student safety if security staff are reduced.
He said: “They received a letter in May from the university saying 24-hour reception and security service at Castle Leazes will no longer be required from August.
“At the moment, there is someone on reception until 10.30pm and from then until 7.30am two fully-trained security guards are on duty.
“The plan is to close the reception area down and cut-back security through the night.”
He added: “The students depend on the security guards here. They also rely on the friendly and approachable relationship they have with the receptionists.
“There was a fire in one of the kitchens at Castle Leazes on Sunday and more than 30 students were evacuated. The security guards on duty had to bang on the doors to wake up students or get their attention.
“If a student who is intoxicated falls how long might they lie there before being found? If a student is in trouble how long will it be before help can arrive if the already reduced service is busy elsewhere?”
On Sunday, four fire engines from Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service were called to Castle Leazes at around 8.30pm.
The fire on the eighth floor kitchen in Bayles Block was caused by a faulty extractor fan and all the residents had been evacuated by the time the fire crews arrived.
Students living in Bayles Block have been temporarily moved to another floor for the remainder of this term.
Mr Knox said security staff played a vital role in minimising the risk posed by the fire.
However, a Newcastle University spokesman insisted that student’s security is not being put at risk.
“Security is not being removed from Castle Leazes,” he said. “A member of security staff will continue to be based on site between the hours of 8pm and 8am.”