South Yorkshire fire crews fear job axe

FIREFIGHTERS fear crew members could be axed after the South Yorkshire fire chiefs admitted job losses were likely as part of moves to cut its budget by 15 per cent.

Union sources said that they had been told that savings will have to be made in all departments and dozens of firefighting job could be at risk.

Around 80 per cent of the service’s £60 million budget goes on staffing costs. A 15 per cent cut would amount to £9 million.

Fire bosses say they have not decided how many or what posts could be at risk.

They have moved to reassure workers by saying there are no plans for compulsory redundancies.

They hope posts will be cut through natural wastage as people retire or leave for other jobs.

The admission that posts could be cut comes after the service revealed it was considering other cost-saving measures such as downgrading some fire stations which do not have high numbers of calls.

Firefighters say the county’s 700 firefighters are currently over-stretched, while spending on departments such as HR and public relations has gone up massively.

A spokesman for the Fire Brigades Union said: “The 15 per cent figures comes from the expected cut in the service’s grant from the government.

“We will certainly be opposed to any frontline cuts. Staffing levels have already been cut to dangerous levels.”

It is understood that the FBU will be invited to take part in discussions to identify possible savings.

A South Yorkshire Fire Service spokesman said if there were reductions in staffing there were no plans for compulsory redundancies and it was hoped they could be achieved through natural wastage.

Out of a £60 million budget, £48 million goes on staffing costs and only £12 million is spent on other things.

The spokesman added: “All the indications are that public sector organisations, including Fire and Rescue Services, will receive significant budget cuts after the election.

“We won't know what level of cuts we are facing until the new Government is formed but we have been working on assumptions of cuts of up to 15 per cent, which would be £9 million of our budget.

“If our funding reduces by that much, the number of people we employ is likely to reduce.

“However, we hope to make any necessary changes through natural wastage such as retirements.”

The service is believed to be looking at making savings in areas such as acquisition of vehicles, IT and sub-contracted services by working with the four other brigades in Yorkshire.

The service has delayed the launch of its three-month public consultation into how savings should be made until May 10.

Anyone interested in having their say should text FIRE to 87023, or write to us at 197 Eyre Street, Sheffield, S1 3FG.