Budget cut fears for South Yorkshire fire stations

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FIRE chiefs in South Yorkshire today warned stations could close if the Government imposes ‘unfair’ budget cuts later in the year.

Chief Fire Officer Jamie Courtney spoke out on the day South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue released performance figures for the last year - which revealed a reduction in emergency incidents dealt with by crews.

Firefighters dealt with 618 accidental property fires compared to 647 the previous year and the number of road traffic collisions attended by firefighters fell to an all-time low of 387.

The number of hoax calls attended was also the lowest ever - 80.

Another record low was the number of arson attacks dealt with by fire crews, down to 6,125, compared to 15,463 in 2003/04.

Performance figures show figures involving grassland and rubbish were up to 5,079, but still the third-lowest total ever recorded by the county’s fire service. Mr Courtney said he was pleased with the latest performance figures but warned he fears an ‘unfair’ level of further Government funding cuts could threaten the fire service’s performance in the future.

The fire service is already having to make savings of nearly £5 million before next year and there are fears of a similar - if not bigger - cut when new fire service budgets are announced in December.

Mr Courtney said: “These figures represent another excellent year’s work by firefighters, support staff, and control operators in making communities safer and reducing the number of emergencies we have attended.

“South Yorkshire people are safer than they have ever been before.

“However, Metropolitan fire services like ours were hit hard by the cuts for 2011-13. The second round of cuts will be announced in December.

“I am genuinely concerned that if the cuts fall unfairly on services like South Yorkshire again, the result will be the closure of fire stations and longer response times. The risk to local communities will increase.

“The Fire Authority Chairman Councillor Jim Andrews and I are extremely grateful for the support of local MPs. We would particularly like to thank John Healey, who has helped us to urge the Government to consider the impact of further cuts on our work to make people safer.

“John has enabled us to have several meetings with MPs and officials at Westminster and I sincerely hope our message is being heard.”