New South Yorkshire fire chief backs a ‘first-class’ service despite budget challenges

John Roberts, new assistant chief fire officer for South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue.
John Roberts, new assistant chief fire officer for South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue.
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A NEW fire chief has said he believes the service in South Yorkshire can still be ‘first class’ – despite ‘significant challenges’.

John Roberts, aged 36, will start his new role as assistant chief fire officer on Tuesday, January 1.

He replaces Neil Hessell following his retirement from South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue earlier this year.

The service has to save £4.7 million by March 2012 because of a reduction in Government funding, with more cost-cutting to come in the future.

And chief fire officer Jamie Courtney spoke out to warn further budget cuts could close stations and put lives at risk in a report earlier this year.

Mr Roberts said: “I am delighted to be appointed assistant chief.

“This service quite rightly has a reputation as one of the finest in the country, and although we are facing some significant challenges, I believe we can still continue to deliver a first-class service to the people of South Yorkshire.”

Mr Roberts joined South Yorkshire service in 2009 from Merseyside Fire & Rescue.

He was an area manager for the Sheffield and Barnsley districts and also led the service’s emergency response directorate.

Coun Jim Andrews, South Yorkshire Fire Authority chairman, said: “There was an extremely strong field of candidates for this post, both from within South Yorkshire and from across the country.

“The number of applicants reflects the esteem in which our service is held nationally, and the fact that John was successful is testament to the pedigree of the officers we have at South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue.

“I would like to congratulate John on his appointment.

“We are all looking forward to working with him at what is an important time for the service.”