Town Hall protest at plans to cut firefighter jobs

Proposals to cut 83 firefighter jobs will be debated by Sheffield councillors after a petition gathered thousands of signatures.

Tuesday, 4th June 2019, 1:48 pm
There will be a Town Hall protest at plans to cut firefighter jobs
There will be a Town Hall protest at plans to cut firefighter jobs

South Yorkshire Fire Authority is facing a potential shortfall of £4m a year and senior managers say the only way they can manage that is to reduce crews from five to four on the fire trucks sent as the first response to emergency incidents.

Although 17 fire and rescue services already operate in this way, only one – Tyne and Wear – is a metropolitan area like South Yorkshire, covering major population centres and rural land.

A petition by trade union bosses has gathered more than 5,000 signatures, which means it automatically triggers a debate at full council next week.

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There will be a rally with a fire engine outside Sheffield Town Hall ahead of the meeting, from 12.30pm on Wednesday, June 12.

Neil Carbutt, Fire Brigade Union regional secretary, says in the petition: “South Yorkshire Fire Authority is planning to save up to £4 million a year by cutting the number of firefighters crewing a fire appliance from five to four.

“This change will see the loss of 83 jobs and put the lives of people in South Yorkshire at risk.

“Five is the minimum number of firefighters needed to safely tackle a blaze and to rescue a member of the public trapped inside a burning building.

“Committing fewer firefighters to an incident risks leaving those inside with less support in a life or death situation.

“South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service say the only other alternative is to slow down response times by reducing the number of fire engines immediately available.

“It is unacceptable that budget shortfalls will result in firefighters and the public being put at greater risk.”

The petition calls on Sheffield Council to reject the proposals, reject plans to remove a night-time engine from Sheffield and Doncaster fire stations and support the union’s campaign for fairer funding for South Yorkshire Fire Service.

Chief Fire Officer Jamie Courtney told a recent meeting of the Fire and Rescue Authority that the only other way to save enough money would be to take away crews from some stations at night, leaving the fire engines to be staffed on an ‘on call’ basis. He said this was regarded as a worse option.

Consultation is due to start with staff, the public, council leaders and MPs.

The financial problems are due to two issues arising at the same time. The service was forced to scrap a crewing arrangement which saw some volunteer staff spending four days at their station.

That saved the service £1.4m a year but it was introduced without agreement from the union and was deemed unlawful as a result.

The service has also been told by Government accountants its pension contributions need to be increased by around £3m a year. The Government will meet the shortfall next year but it’s anticipated finding the cash will fall to the authority in future.