Cuts to fire service budgets will lead to more deaths, Government officials were warned by a South Yorkshire MP in a ‘final warning’.
John Healey, the Labour for Wentworth and Dearne, spoke out at a debate on fire and rescue service funding, during which he said: “More people will die.”
The debate followed months of campaigning for a fairer settlement for six metropolitan fire areas, including South Yorkshire, which have had their budgets cut over the last two years and face more cuts over the next two years.
South Yorkshire fire chiefs fear they could lose around £10 million altogether.
Mr Healey said the cuts were ‘unfair, unequal and hard to justify’ when some richer, rural counties have had their funding increased because of a new Government funding formula which leaves advantaged areas able to raise more in council tax.
Mr Healey added: “The situation we faced in these first two years was indefensible. While six authorities were wondering how to spend the extra cash they had, the six metropolitan areas were working out how to cut 1,258 full-time firefighters, 69 retained firefighters and more than 550 other staff. “In South Yorkshire alone, we have to cut one in seven of our full-time firefighters.”
Mr Healey said fire chiefs want a flat rate cut across the country for the 2013-2015 period.
“If the pattern of years one and two is repeated in years three and four, our areas together will be looking at axing an extra 1,000 firefighters,” added the MP.
“In the past nine months, we have given the Government fair warning, and the Minister should take this as a final warning.
“If the cuts fall in the same way, so deeply and so unfairly in the metropolitan areas, there will be fewer firefighters, fire engines and fire stations. Bluntly, more people will die.”