South Yorkshire fire officials say station closures 'best option'

Firefighter standing up addressing public Residents heard the proposals at a public meeting in Royston

Four fire stations across South Yorkshire should close as the "best option" to save £10m, fire service officials have said.

South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue aims to close the retained station in Royston.

Under the plans, stations in Darnall, Mansfield Road and the part-time station at Mosborough would be replaced with two new stations at Sheffield Parkway and Birley.

Royston councillor Graham Kyte said the plans were "unjustified".

Analysis

The councillors on South Yorkshire's Fire Authority, who ultimately have the final decision on this, will be thinking "Is there anything else we can do?"

Since BBC Radio Sheffield revealed the plans to close four fire stations, everyone has had the chance to have their say.

From the quiet public meeting with only five members of the public near Elm Lane fire station to the outrage of the 100 or so in Royston, South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue says it was genuinely looking for ideas.

Sixteen other options from the public and firefighters were suggested.

One included raising council tax by 38% (an extra £23 a year) to cover the shortfall in government funding.

Another involved using the brigade's reserves to keep stations open.

All of the ideas were rejected as either putting lives at increased risk, or not saving enough money.

It is clear no one wants fire stations to close, but with £10m to save over four years it will be left to South Yorkshire councillors to make the final call.

The fire service said 108 full-time jobs would go as staff either retire or leave the service.

These would be alongside 32 retained firefighter posts at Mosborough, Royston and Edlington going by 2016.

Sixteen different ideas on saving money were considered - but then rejected by officials.

Chief Fire Officer James Courtney said: "The consultation was about allowing the public to get used to the ideas that we were putting forward, and also to consider whether or not they could think of an alternative proposal that delivered similar savings.

"Professionally we were always curious as to whether anybody would come up with anything.

"It comes as no surprise that there's nothing new, they're all variations on a theme.

"But I can assure everybody that had somebody come up with a feasible suggestion that panned out, we would be making that recommendation to the fire authority."

Councillor Graham Kyte, the Labour member representing Royston, said: "In my view the cuts are unjustified and unnecessary."

The fire authority is to make a final decision next week.

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