THE Fire Brigades Union (FBU) and their supporters held a rally outside Sheffield Town Hall last week, and then FBU officials and members of this steadfast trade union went in to the full council meeting to present a petition of over 10,000 signatures. This urges South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Authority to not reduce the number of firefighters on a fire appliance from five to four at a countywide level.
Once the FBU had presented their petition, many councillors from across the political spectrum rose to their feet in standing ovation. I found this heartwarming, humbling and a very important moment on this long road of getting a fair funding settlement to allow us to have a safe and, therefore, vibrant and welcoming South Yorkshire.
The proposal to not only cut 84 firefighters, but also to further reduce available fire appliances, is a scandalous abandonment of our communities. I regret that one of the senior management team at the Fire & Rescue Service has taken to the media to defend this on more then one occasion.
South Yorkshire must never lose 84 firefighters. The results would be vicious. Those results would be borne out in our communities.
If they currently have five firefighters on a fire appliance and can sometimes possibly manage, according to senior management by a wing and a prayer with four, what will happen if they cut to four? Will they then manage by another wing and a few more prayers with three, due to sickness or annual leave? Will a family car contain more people then those that could arrive at a high speed rail accident, a prison fire, a fatal road traffic accident, a steelworks explosion, a house fire, a flood or terrorist incident?
The Fire & Rescue Authority must scrap this dangerous idea of reducing firefighters, and immediately reinstate the second fire appliance on nights at Rotherham Fire Station.
If more then 10,000 people can sign the petition to lobby against these horrific cuts then we can be sure, as a community, we are up for the fight to help those heroic firefighters who face agonising decisions on turning up to a house fire, and yet can’t go inside to rescue people due to a lack of firefighters on the scene.
In my view the £25m currently held in reserves should be spent to maintain the current service level, put the second pump back on the run at nights at Rotherham, and then we can start a proactive funding settlement programme, negotiation and engagement with HM Government.