Fire chief warns of flood aid money threat

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South Yorkshire’s top fire officer fears the help his brigade gave to flood-hit communities could be under threat in the future because of budget cuts.

Teams and equipment from South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service were sent to help residents in Somerset and Berkshire.

They helped to pump out water, put up flood defences and deliver humanitarian aid after heavy downpours threw the south of England into chaos.

But James Courtney, chief fire officer, said work of that kind could be restricted in future as he is forced to balance a reducing budget with maintaining resources for major emergencies.

He said: “We are doing everything we can to protect our front line emergency response service, but the level of cuts being imposed means that, inevitably, our resources will become more stretched, so it may not always be possible to offer this kind of assistance in the future.

“Fire and rescue services across the UK pride themselves on their ability to help each other when needed, and often it is the larger, metropolitan fire services like ourselves that are called on to provide this kind of aid.

“Although our work to make South Yorkshire safer means incident numbers are falling, we still need to ensure we have a certain level of resilience for when serious, nationally significant events like the recent flooding occur.”

South Yorkshire benefited from the fire service’s tradition of sharing resources in the floods of 2007, when over 30 high volume pumps from all over the country helped to pump out areas around Bentley and Toll Bar.

Government cuts will have reduced the service’s budget from £60 million in 2011 to under £51m by 2015, with further cuts due.