South Yorkshire fire service consultation period extended

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There are three more weeks for people to have their say on fire service proposals in South Yorkshire for how it will do things till 2017 - after the original consultation period had been due to end this week.

The plans pledge not to remove any more fire stations and fire engines in spite of further Government funding cuts, but the consultation period has been extended to give people more time to give their views.

The draft documents, already shaped by a 13-week consultation period earlier this year, include changing crewing arrangements and replacing CARP vehicles with rescue pumps and dedicated aerial appliances.

The first round of Government cuts will have reduced the Service’s budget from £60m in 2011 to under £51m in 2015. These cuts led to the Fire Authority deciding last year to remove five pumps and close stations at Royston, Darnall, Mansfield Road and Mosborough, whilst opening new stations at the Parkway and Birley Moor.

But despite the likelihood of a further £3m in cuts by 2017, senior fire officers are recommending that the Authority makes no further removals of stations or pumps, in their draft plan for 2013-17.

Chief Fire Officer James Courtney said: “We have consulted extensively with staff and the public in the development of this plan, but we want to give people even longer to tell us what they think of the draft proposals their opinions have helped shape.

“People’s clear initial feedback has been that we must protect the frontline as far as possible and, despite losing £12 million from our budget, that’s what these plans seek to do.”

The key frontline changes being proposed to the Authority are:

The second rescue pumps based at Parkway, and the main fire stations in Barnsley, Rotherham and Doncaster, will at night-time revert to a part-time staffing arrangement. They will continue to be permanently available during the daytime. This reduces costs and is preferable to the alternative, which is to remove fire stations or rescue pumps

The new station at Birley Moor, which was going to be crewed 24/7, will now be staffed by part-time firefighters

The CARP appliances will be replaced by rescue pumps and dedicated aerial appliances. These have saved the Service around £1.25m per year since being introduced in 2011, but firefighters and Fire Brigades Union officials have raised a series of issues about their performance.

SYFR also plans to scrap its 999 response time target of six minutes after clear public feedback that it was irrelevant, but will continue to report its performance against six minutes to the Fire Authority to provide a clear indicator as to how the Government cuts are affecting the service.

People can have their say by visiting www.syfire.gov.uk and submitting their feedback online, or by writing to South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue, 197 Eyre Street, Sheffield S1 3FG.

The extended consultation period ends on 4 November.