Emergency services hit by level of cuts

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FIRE chiefs are warning of Government funding cuts having a ‘significant impact’ on frontline services.

The county’s Chief Fire Officer Jamie Courtney branded the county’s budget cuts over the last two years as ‘disproportionate’, pointing out that his brigade lost 12 per cent of its funding compared to an average reduction of six per cent across the country.

But he claimed that some services - Essex, Cheshire and Hampshire - ended up with more money under the Government’s funding arrangements.

South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue will have had £10 million axed from its budget over a four year period by the end of 2015, with the funding available for the 999 service dropping from £60 million to £50 million.

Mr Courtney said: “We will have seen our Government grant funding cut by around £10 million over the four year period. A cut of that size can will inevitably have a significant impact upon the frontline services we are able to provide.

“To that end, we fully support calls for a fairer deal, not just for Sheffield, but for our county as a whole.

“We’ve already reduced our back office budget by 25 per cent, including the removal of around 40 support staff posts, whilst changes to our frontline service announced last year will see the removal of fire engines and closure of fire stations in some areas.

“We have worked hard to ensure these changes have the smallest possible impact on safety, but would much prefer not to have to make these changes at all.”

To save cash fire chiefs have reduced back office costs by 25 per cent by axing 40 jobs.

Between 2011 and 2015 around 140 firefighter posts are expected to have been lost.

Managers have closed Royston fire station in Barnsley and plan to shut another three in Sheffield - in Darnall, Mansfield Road and Mosborough. Two new stations will be built in their place.

Meanwhile, police chiefs in South Yorkshire will have had around £43 million axed from their budget by 2015.

The county’s recently elected Labour Police and Crime Commissioner, Shaun Wright, said South Yorkshire had fared ‘very badly’ in the Government’s funding cuts, pointing out that the police gets 80 per cent of its funding from the Government and just 20 per cent from council tax payments - compared to more affluent counties which rely on Government funding less.

He said: “The funding formula is based on things such demographics, employment, educational attainment and the age of the population.

“Because of those factors and the level of deprivation in the county we need more funding to ensure we live in safe communities. If you compare that with Suffolk for example they get 45 per cent of their funding from the Government and the rest from council tax.

“So when the Government announces a 20 per cent funding cut across the board it is not a level playing field - those with more reliance on the Government grant get hit the hardest.”

He said the force had lost 215 police officers since 2010 and another 60 are due to retire this year.

But the commissioner said he is to ask for another one pence a day from South Yorkshire residents from their council tax to generate £1.5 million to fund a recruitment drive to replace the officers coming to the end of their careers.

Mr Wright also plans to recruit 400 special police constables over the next two years.

He plans to put 50 of the new full time bobbies into neighbouring policing and 10 into child protection.

Mr Wright said: “Those retiring are from a range of specialisms and I have agreed that 50 of the new recruits will go into neighbouring policing teams, which is what the public told me they wanted during the election campaign.

“We have already lost 215 officers since 2010, I don’t want to see the force reduce any more and will fund recruitment through more efficiencies, reserves and the council tax.”