Fire crews in the red over black uniform contract

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A FIRE brigade that is slashing jobs and closing stations to save cash has defended a decision to “write off” almost £100,000 worth of kit because it was the wrong colour.

A year ago, South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue, which is trying to save £10m, signed a contract that saw firefighters move from red uniforms to black.

However it has now emerged that the brigade was left with hundreds of red tunics and overtrousers, and under financial regulations fire chiefs had to ask for permission to bin them.

That consent was granted by South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Authority at a meeting last week, meaning the “obsolete” personal protective equipment can now be disposed of.

Brigade bosses said the new uniform contract with Bristol Uniforms which started last November, would save them £100,000 a year and emphasised that the old kit would have needed replacing in any case.

They also said some of the 234 tunics, 242 pairs of overtrousers, 230 pairs of gloves and 143 pairs of boots would be shipped to Kashmir for firefighters there.

A spokesman said: “In 2010, our old fire kit was coming to the end of its useful life. The authority decided to move to a managed service arrangement.

“This gives us greater certainty about the ongoing quality of our fire kit, whilst also saving £100,000 per year compared to our previous arrangements.

“The disposal of surplus old kit would have been necessary whatever new arrangements had been put in place. Some of the old kit has been donated to the Kashmir Fire Service.

“Despite the tough financial situation, we remain absolutely committed to providing our firefighters with the best equipment to keep them safe when attending incidents.”

In a report to the fire authority, the brigade’s director of finance and resources Beverley Sandy said a “provision” for the write-off had been made in the service’s 2011/12 accounts and would have “no effect on expenditure”.

South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue, in common with the region’s other three brigades, is battling to meet Government-imposed austerity cuts, which are predicted to worsen in the coming years.

Announcing the new uniform last year, the brigade said it had surveyed its staff, who had worn red firefighting kit since 2002, with an “overwhelming” majority requesting a return to black.

In the deal with Bristol Uniforms, South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue’s firefighters were equipped with full new sets of protective gear, including helmets, hoods, tunics, trousers, boots, goggles and gloves.