Long-serving firefighter steps in to lead the body which controls the South Yorkshire service

A career firefighter who spent 32 years with the South Yorkshire brigade has now been appointed chairman of the political body which oversees the work of the service.

Wednesday, 26th June 2019, 1:58 pm
Updated Wednesday, 26th June 2019, 1:58 pm
Now: Coun Robert Taylor, chairman of South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Authority
Now: Coun Robert Taylor, chairman of South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Authority

The appointment of Rotherham Councillor Robert Taylor comes in an era where South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service is under extreme financial pressure after years of austerity cuts.

His new role as chairman of South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Authority, a body made up of councillors from the county’s four borough councils alongside Police and Crime Commissioner Dr Alan Billings, will provide the body with a detailed insight into the practicalities of the operational service.

Then: Coun Robert Taylor during his firefighting career

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Coun Taylor joined the service at 18, meaning he had to serve to the age of 50 under pension rules of that time, making his 32 year career longer than most colleagues.

That service took him from his home town to serve across South Yorkshire, from Lowedges in Sheffield to the south and the former Royston station in Barnsley to the north as he climbed through the ranks, before ending his career with a headquarters posting in Sheffield.

The end of his firefighting career provided the time to pursue his interest in politics, joining a parish council after attending meetings and then being elected to Rotherham Council in 2015, to serve the Anston and Woodsetts ward.

Elections a year later saw him move to the Holderness ward, which he continues to represent.

“I had always been interested in politics but the restrictions of the job stopped me from pursuing that,” he said.

“I sat in with the parish council and got taken on when someone left. At the 2015 elections I was elected for Anston and in 2016 it was an all out election and a vacancy came up in Holderness, where I have been since 2016.

“As soon as I was elected, I looked at my strengths and weaknesses. I realised from sitting in and listening to debates about the fire service that my background gave me a better insight than most of my colleagues.

“Right from the outset I put myself forward – more in hope than expectation – and eventually one of the fire authority members went to be mayor and I filled that place.

“Luckily, I was chosen again and asked to be chair.”

Coun Taylor has stepped into the job as the service and authority face the wrangle of trying to balance budgets against a potential black hole of £4m, which could occur as a result of pension recalculations by the Government and a legal ruling which means more money needs to be spent on crewing some fire stations in future.