Was controversial South Yorkshire Fire Service cost-cutting consultation properly signed off?

FIRE bosses called an extraordinary meeting to work out if the budget consultation they started had actually been properly authorised.

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue is looking to save £4 million — but there have been concerns about how the “either or” option was been presented to the public.

The Fire Brigades Union collected a 10,429-name petition and some members of the South Yorkshire Fire Authority raised concerns.

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The options which went out to the public were a choice of reducing crews from five to four across the county or removing fire engines in some areas.

Authority member Cllr Alan Atkin said: “That’s where I think the consultation is flawed. I don’t think we have given them enough information.

“It’s one of the most important decisions we have made and we need to get it right.”

Cllr Tony Damms added: “People have seen the amount of reserves we have got and said can’t they help out, even if it’s just for a short period.”

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Cllr Steve Ayris pointed out that the document which went out to consultation was “three or four” pages longer than the paper which was before them in April.

Referring to the meeting that month, chief fire officer James Courtney said: “Our understanding was that we had been given your authority to begin a consultation process.”

The meeting decided to press on with the consultation but accept other suggestions outside the two main choices.

Authority chairman Cllr Chris Lamb said: “I think we have to make it relatively easy for people, accessible for people, to stand a chance of getting a reasonable level of responses.

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“We have restated our commitment that this is open consultation.”

And police commissioner Dr Alan Billings, a committee member, said: “I don’t think we need to get tied in knots over this. Something will come back and we’ll form judgements around what comes back.”

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