Fire station closure plans spark protests

FIRE service managers in South Yorkshire are facing stiff opposition over plans to close two Sheffield stations to save money.

They are looking at building a new station on or near the Sheffield Parkway to replace premises at Darnall and Mansfield Road, Intake, as part of a strategy to help find £10m of savings demanded by the Government.

Also facing closure is a retained fire station – used in emergencies – in Mosborough, although this could be replaced by a full-time station in the Birley area.

The proposals will be discussed by the South Yorkshire Fire Authority at the end of the month and, if approved, will be subject to public consultation.

But Fire Brigades Union spokesman John Gilliver said: “The fire service management is playing a very dangerous game – Russian roulette with people’s lives.

“I don’t think there is a station in Sheffield that is not busy, so to close two of the busiest down cannot be right.

“We are already understaffed and not meeting response time targets, so moving stations away from the communities they serve will only increase response time further – they should be in the heart of communities.”

Sheffield South East MP Clive Betts, whose constituency covers Darnall and Mosborough, said: “I want to see evidence that all my constituents will be able to get a fire engine to their property in the future as quickly as they can get one now.”

A fire service spokesman said: “We expect to lose around £10m per year in Government funding by 2015, from a £60m budget. We are cutting management and administration costs by 25% but this only saves around £2.8m per year.

“We don’t want to make these changes but, as professional officers, have researched the options to save money whilst having minimum impact on the public.

“After the authority has made in-principle decisions, there will be a full public consultation period before final decisions are made. We would be happy to hear any alternative proposals as to how we can make £10m per year of savings.”

A retained station in Royston in Barnsley could also be closed and Edlington fire station in Doncaster could lose its part-time crew but keep its full-time firefighters as part of the proposed package.

Controversially, firefighters at up to six stations could be asked to work day shifts but also be expected to be on call at night in return for extra cash. Fire chiefs claim it would reduce the need for 10 firefighters at each station, saving £400,000 a station.

There are plans to lose around 70 firefighters by not replacing those who retire.