70 fire jobs to be axed

FIRE bosses in South Yorkshire are set to axe 62 firefighters and nine control room staff in a bid to find savings of £9 million.

At a meeting last night, the South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Authority board asked the brigade to look further at a 'self-rostering' system they say will "remove historic inefficiencies" in the traditional watch system.

The proposals, which will save 2.47m a year, will wipe out the existing system in which stations are given seven officers per pump, which need a minimum of five to run.

Instead, station managers will run shifts themselves - left to find firefighters from other shifts or other stations if they are short.

If given final approval, the proposals will cut one in 12 fire officers in Sheffield, Rotherham, Barnsley and Doncaster, reducing the force from around 750 to under 690.

The control room would be cut by a quarter, from 38 to 29. The Fire Brigades Union last night said the proposals would leave the force with a "significantly worse service".

The fire authority picked the self-rostering system as their preferred cost-cutting measure after they were told the Government was cutting their budget by 9m over four years.

They voted against proposals to close any of South Yorkshire's 23 stations, but left other measures on the table - including scrapping three roving fire engines, merging two crews based at Dearne and reducing the number of staff allocated to each engine.

The authority says it will look again at whether the additional measures are necessary once final funding levels for the next four years are confirmed.

The force also needs to cut 25 per cent from its administrative and management costs, leaving 240 backroom staff fearing for their jobs.

FBU brigade secretary John Gilliver said he was "very concerned" about the proposals, but focused his anger on the Government's funding cuts.

He said: "We are already working on minimum staffing levels. We have already been subjected to cuts and this would leave us with a significantly worse service.

"Obviously, we would prefer to see jobs protected and no redundancies.

"However, we know there is a problem with government funding and we are looking at different self-rostering models to see how they would affect us."

He said the new system would put the responsibility for staffing onto fire officers themselves.

Mr Gilliver added: "It depends on the goodwill of firefighters to be available to cover holidays, sickness and training. This causes a lot of problems."

A South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue spokesman said: "Based on officers' recommendations, authority members decided to give further consideration to moving to a self-rostering system for firefighters and 999 control room operators, which would remove historic inefficiencies in the traditional watch-based system."

He said the proposals would cut costs "without reducing the number of fire stations or fire engines available."

He added: "Members will continue to monitor the financial situation over the coming weeks and give due consideration to all the options presented by officers."

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