The Fire Brigades Union revealed today that there are now 11,468 fewer firefighters currently employed in the UK compared to in 2010 – a 19 per cent reduction.
Although an extra 318 firefighter posts were created last year – including 22 in South Yorkshire, which was a one per cent increase – the FBU is calling on the government to fund more posts to reverse ‘a decade of severe cuts’.
It claims the fire service is ‘in crisis’.
Nationally, firefighter numbers have dropped in every in every brigade in the UK and the FBU claims that overall spending on UK fire and rescue services has fallen by 38 per cent since 2005.
In South Yorkshire there are 556 firefighters employed – down by 255 on the total employed in 2010.
Matt Wrack, the FBU general secretary, said: “This shameless government is doing nothing to ease the pressure on overstretched and underpaid firefighters, all while making dubious claims of spending elsewhere.
“Fire and rescue services are in crisis after years of brutal cuts – and this year’s measly increase in posts is wholly insufficient to plug the gaps.
“We cannot allow firefighters’ life-saving work to go unrecognised.
“The Chancellor must fund firefighter recruitment and end the years of real-term pay cuts for firefighters. Our communities need more firefighters – and the government needs to reflect the work they do in their pay cheques.”
The FBU claims fires are on the increase, with a 10 per cent spike in England over the last year, after wildfires tore across the country.
Mr Wrack added: “The Whaley Bridge dam collapse saw fire and rescue services stretched to the limit. Firefighters were pulled from every brigade in the region, and from as far as Chichester and London.
“If this government is serious about tackling the climate emergency, it needs to invest in our frontline defences – and it is firefighters who are tackling wildfires and rescuing people stranded in flooding. Whaley Bridge will not be the last extreme weather event to stretch fire and rescue resources.”
This year has seen the only net increase in UK firefighter numbers in a decade.
Around 8,000 of the jobs cut since 2010 were wholetime firefighter posts, while 3,000 were on-call firefighter positions.
The FBU also claims that around a quarter of fire control staff, who take emergency calls and mobilise fire crews, have been lost.
Out of 51 fire services across the UK, only 10 others suffered the loss of more firefighter posts than South Yorkshire.
Chief Fire Officer James Courtney, of South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue, said: “We’ve suffered massive cuts to our funding over the last decade. “Our approach throughout austerity has been to protect frontline services as far as possible - in particular, the immediate 24/7 response from each of our existing full time fire stations.
“Inevitably though, the size of the cuts we’ve faced has meant we’ve had to reduce the number of firefighters we employ.
“We call upon government to ensure that fire services, including our own, are placed on a more secure and more sustainable financial footing in the future.”