Firefighters’ job cuts attacked after council tax rise

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UNION leaders have attacked plans to cut firefighters’ jobs and close fire stations after council tax payers were told they faced bigger bills for the service from April.

The Fire Brigades Union attacked South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue’s plans to go ahead with “savage frontline cuts” in the wake of the council tax hike announcement.

At a meeting last month, members of the service’s governing fire authority agreed to a 3.95 per cent increase in its share of council tax, describing it as an “insurance policy” against further cuts.

But FBU officials yesterday said proposals to close four fire stations, scrap five fire appliances and cut 140 firefighters could not be justified – particularly as the authority has reserves of £15m.

The union’s John Gilliver said the service underspent by £2m last year and added: “The budget meeting has put forward plans that will see people paying more and getting reduced service.

“This is a disgrace; these cuts are not necessary. The fire authority could fill the budget gap created by central Government grant cuts with part of the reserves over the next three years.

“The annual budget is just under £60m and we’re holding reserves of £15m – 25 per cent of the revenue budget.

“Using part of the reserves to plug the gap would still leave fire authority reserves higher as a percentage of the annual budget than reserves currently held by nearby local councils.”

The staffing cuts will be considered at a meeting of South Yorkshire Fire Authority on March 26.

A spokesman for South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue said the brigade and authority stood by the plans which would protect services in the future.