South Yorkshire fire cuts: 'Seven stations could close'
A third of South Yorkshire's fire stations may have to close with the loss of 150 jobs, the county's most senior fire officer has warned.
Chief Fire Officer Jamie Courtney said he fears the government would announce a £10m budget cut in December, on top of a £4.7m cut already made.
Seven out of South Yorkshire's 23 fire stations were likely to face closure as a result, said Mr Courtney.
A government spokesman said Mr Courtney's comments were "premature".'Very concerned'
Under plans already announced earlier this year, four fire stations in Royston, near Barnsley and Sheffield's Darnall, Mansfield Road and part-time station at Mosborough would be closed.
They would be replaced by two new fire stations at Sheffield Parkway and Birley.
About 108 full-time jobs would go as staff either retired or left the service, the fire service had previously said.
When South Yorkshire's new central fire station opened in 2009, South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue was worried it might not be big enough for their staff. This week there will be a whole floor of empty desks.
Fire services are changing and the worry is that more stations will have to close. It is significant that this warning does not come from the firefighters' union but the chief fire officer.
Since 2003, 999 calls in South Yorkshire have dropped by 48% thanks to the preventive work the fire crews do. But now even that may be at risk if 150 firefighter jobs are at risk.
With the service already shrinking, might the emphasis be put on reacting to calls rather than trying to prevent them in the first place?
It is certain we will see a smaller fire service in the future. We will find out exactly how small in December.
But Mr Courtney said he is concerned the Department for Communities and Local Government would announce a further £10m reduction in South Yorkshire's funding before the end of the year, meaning the closure of seven more fire stations.
That cut would have "very serious" implications, said Mr Courtney.
"We're very concerned these cuts will not only impact on our intervention at emergencies, but also on the work we've been doing for years around making people safer in their homes," he said.
"The impact of closing fire stations is in the time it takes to get to incidents which will inevitably get longer.
"We would seek where possible to spread the impact, but fewer stations means longer response times, so inevitably the risk will increase."
A Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman said a consultation over the future funding of local government, which included the funding of local fire authorities, had only just closed.
All responses made during that consultation were being considered by the department and the results would be announced "in due course", he added.