Safety fears over fire cuts

Firefighters outside the meeting in Barnsley where fire service cus are being discussed
Firefighters outside the meeting in Barnsley where fire service cus are being discussed

Controversial plans to plug a £10 million funding cut in the fire service in South Yorkshire have been approved.

The South Yorkshire Fire Authority agreed plans to close four stations across the region, axe 32 part-time firefighters and abolish three roving fire engines.

It also approved changes to night shift working - which could include stations in Maltby and Aston - and not to replace 108 firefighters due to retire over the next few years.

Fire Brigades Union member John Gilliver said the cuts were ‘too deep’ and would lead to increase risks for the public and firefighters.

But chairman of South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Authority Coun Jim Andrews said they were had no other option with such a huge reduction in Government grants.

South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue has already lost £4.7million from the Government, a figure likely to reach £10million by 2015.

Coun Andrews said: “We firmly believe that the proposals approved today will help us achieve the necessary savings whilst having the minimum impact on fire cover.”

“However, we are still in an uncertain position because the Government won’t tell us what our grant reduction will be after 2013. Our medium term annual budget could vary by up to £6million, depending on the size of the cut, so we need to keep our reserves to plan for the worst.”

Under the plans Close Proximity Crewing - changes to night shift working - will be introduced at up to six stations, possibly including Aston and Maltby, which will see savings of £400,000 at each station, introduced initially at Lowedges.

Stations will close at Mansfield Road, Darnall, Mosborough and Royston, with new fire station built on land where Sheffield Parkway meets Mosborough Parkway, and a second in Birley. Retained firefighters at Edlington will be axed.

Chief fire officer Jamie Courtney said: “As professional officers we have carried out extensive research into how we can make the necessary savings whilst having the least impact on the service we provide to people in South Yorkshire.”

“It is impossible to take millions of pounds out of a budget without affecting service delivery, but these changes will help us cope with the budget reduction whilst minimising the impact on emergency fire cover.”

“We put these proposals out to public consultation, but none of the sixteen alternative proposals we received provided both the necessary level of emergency fire cover with the same level of savings. I am confident that the impact on the public of these changes will be minimal but if anyone is concerned about fire safety issues and would like to request a Home Safety Check, they can call us on (0114) 253 2314 or text FREE to 87023.”