SOUTH Yorkshire’s most senior fire officers will face questions on the impact of their decision to reduce fire cover in Rotherham when they face councillors next week
Rotherham Council’s overview and scrutiny management board meets on Wednesday to look at the effect of changes introduced last year, which means one of the two fire trucks based at the Rotherham station is left with an ‘on call’ crew at night, rather than having firefighters at the station waiting to attend emergencies.
The decision to reduce cover was made in 2013, as it became clear that Government imposed austerity was a long-term prospect and that cuts would have to be made.
But it was not until last year that the change was implemented and now councillors want to know what the reality of the change has meant for the way the fire and rescue service operates and the effect for Rotherham residents.
Rotherham Council has already debated the issue and acknowledge that the service has lost 29 per cent of its Government funding, or £12.5m in cash terms, since 2010, with another £1.4m expected to go from next year’s budget.
The council’s position is that it wants to see the second truck returned to normal crewing and that has resulted in Chief Fire Officer James Courtney and his deputy, Martin Blunden, being invited to give a presentation to the scrutiny board.
Rotherham Councillor Alan Atkin, who is vice chairman of South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Authority, the brigade’s ruling body, will also attend.
Following the presentation councillors will have the opportunity to ask questions.
Much of the fire service’s work has changed in recent years, with crews now taking on a more active preventative role which has seen numbers of home fire safety checks increase ten fold in recent years.
At the same time, the number of accidental house fires in the county have gone down by more than a third.