South Yorkshire force reviews response target it has never met

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SOUTH Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service chiefs are reviewing their own response targets - which the brigade has failed ever to meet.

The brigade has not achieved its target of attending 80 per cent of ‘life-threatening’ incidents in six minutes - usually house fires or car crashes – since the benchmark was set across the county in 2006.

The closest it came was the year the target was set, when the brigade met the benchmark 64 per cent of the time.

Last year, the target was met 55 per cent of the time - and at its lowest level, in 2009, it was 52 per cent.

That performance has come under fire from the Fire Brigades Union - with one official calling it ‘ludicrous’.

But fire bosses said the number of deaths and injuries recorded has fallen from 158 in 2006 to 50 in 2012.

The number of 999 calls the force receives has also gone down, from 42,835 in 2009 to 29,425 in 2012 - something the force claims is down to preventative work.

A fire service spokesman said: “Our current response time target was set in 2006.

“We believe it is the most challenging such target in the country, and we have been unable to meet it.

“However, in that time, the number of emergency calls to us has halved, and the number of fire deaths and injuries has gone down by two-thirds.

“Effective fire prevention, and the fitting and testing of smoke alarms, are more important factors in keeping people safe.”

The target was recommended to the South Yorkshire Fire Authority by senior officers before it was approved back in 2006.

Now the force says it is reviewing the target and will make further proposals to the authority.

The spokesman added: “We will always respond to every life-threatening incident as quickly as we can, but we recognise that having a response time target helps to make us accountable and provides people with reassurance about the service they receive.

“Therefore, we are currently reviewing our targets, and will make proposals to our authority, aiming to set a more realistic target in the near future.”

But John Gillivan, brigade secretary for the Fire Brigades Union in South Yorkshire, said changing the target would not ‘benefit the public’.

He added: “The target is needed because it is about accountability.

“These are targets that are going to affect lives so it’s absolutely imperative there is something to aim for.

“It is achievable. It is ludicrous.”

New figures also show that the number of ‘primary fires’, which affect homes, businesses or cars, has reduced from 4,685 in 2006 to 2,112 last year in 2012.

Response in numbers:

minutes, the force’s response target for life-threatening incidents - 6

the percentage of such incidents met in six minutes last year - 55

999 calls received by the force last year - 29,425

the year the target was set - 2006