RORY Stewart MP has joined thousands of marchers in Penrith in a mass show of community strength against council proposals to cut a fire engine from the town.

Mr Stewart, the Conservative MP for Penrith and the Border, joined retained fire fighter Dawn Coates in the mass march at the weekend.

Cash-strapped Cumbria County Council run by a Labour-Lib Dem coalition, needs to save £80 million over the next three years and blames the Government for taking a 'bite out of its budget."

It needs to save £24.4 million in the next financial year alone and has been carrying out a countywide consultation on where the money should come from.

It has proposed the measure in an effort to save £50,000 from its budget. Fire stations in Kendal and Dalton-in-Furness face identical potential cuts.

But Penrith firefighters and the local community have raised strong concerns that without a second appliance, the local service will be unable to meet its legal response times to emergencies, which they fear would put lives and property at unnecessary risk.

Local campaigners marched from Middlegate to the Corn Market bandstand, where volunteers were standing by to gather further signatures for their petition - already signed by thousands - and to inform local residents how to contact those councillors responsible for deciding the future of Cumbria's Fire and Rescue Services.

Speaking at the bandstand, Mr Stewart said: "What is most frustrating is that Penrith firefighters have already suggested sensible, alternative proposals for how to save this money.

"This is not the right cut, and there are real concerns about the safety implications of removing this engine. It is clear from the turnout today, and the thousands of names on the petition, that this service is deeply valued by Penrith and the local community.

"Please everyone get in touch with your local councillors and let them know just how much you disagree with proposition 28. "

The final decision is likely to be made at the county council's budget setting meeting in February.