Councillors condemn plans to cut firefighter jobs
South Yorkshire’s fire service is at breaking point and people’s lives are ‘undeniably’ being put at risk due to funding cuts, a Sheffield councillor has said.
Sheffield Council’s safer and stronger communities scrutiny committee discussed the proposals after the Fire Brigade Union (FBU) presented a petition to the council with more than 10,000 signatures.
South Yorkshire Fire Authority says it has cost pressures of up to £4 million and is consulting on two possible options:
Whether to maintain the number of fire engines available 24/7 across the county, but reduce the number of firefighters on an engine from five to four
Or reduce the amount of fire engines available 24/7 across South Yorkshire, but keep five firefighters on each of them
Fire chiefs say people will still be safe but councillors believe firefighters are already overstretched and the proposals don’t take into account Sheffield’s population growth and more people living in the city centre.
The chairman of the scrutiny board, Coun Ben Curran, said: “What is clear is that the fire service, like many of our public services, is at breaking point after nine long years of Government cuts.
“This has clearly gone too far. People’s lives are undeniably being put in danger as a result of these funding cuts.
“I want to see the Fire Authority come back with different proposals. I want to see if any experiences can be taken from what other authorities in similar positions have done, and whether there is any scope for using any of the reserves – something which is not proposed at present.”
Deputy Chief Fire Officer Alex Johnson said the authority would rather not make any changes at all.
She added: “The reality is that the only realistic options for meeting an annual shortfall of up to £4 million are to reduce the number of firefighters on a fire engine, or to reduce the number of fire engines available 24/7.
“All options will be considered once the consultation period has concluded, but it is unlikely any alternative proposals would achieve the annual savings we need to make. We do not believe that reserves are a realistic, long term solution.
“People have not been less safe when we have ridden with four person crews on 34 per cent of occasions during the last two years and they will not be less safe in the future.”
The scrutiny committee’s report will be submitted to the Fire Authority’s consultation. People can give their views here: http://www.syfire.gov.uk/haveyoursay/