Keir Starmer says government has questions to answer over Yorkshire fire service cuts

Labour leader Keir Starmer says the Government has questions to answer over why fire and rescue services in Yorkshire have been hit by some of the worst cuts in the country.

Speaking during a visit to a flood-hit area of South Yorkshire, Sir Keir said the 22 per cent fall in the number of firefighters since the Conservatives came to power in 2010 was a “massive problem”.

Analysis by Labour, seen by The Yorkshire Post, shows that cuts to fire and rescue services in South and West Yorkshire, both of which have been hit by catastrophic floods in the last 12 months, are worse than the England average.

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'It's been a nightmare', flood-hit South Yorkshire residents tell Keir Starmer

In South Yorkshire, where severe flooding last winter left homes under water in a number of areas and destroyed livelihoods, 301 full-time equivalent staff have been lost, including 259 front-line roles, representing a cut of 30 per cent.

The figures in West Yorkshire are even worse, with 732 full-time equivalent staff lost, including 610 front-line roles, representing 38 per cent of the workforce. Fire services in North Yorkshire and the Humber were not so badly affected, with cuts of 11 per cent and 21 per cent respectively.

The Environment Agency, which is a tier one responder responsible for preparing emergency flooding plans and responding when flooding occurs, has lost nearly 30 per cent of its staff since the Tories came to power.

Fire crews nationwide responded to 17 per cent more flooding calls in the year to June than in the previous 12 months, though the number of such calls has fluctuated year by year depending on the weather.

Labour leader Keir Starmer in South Yorkshire. Pic: Jonathan Gawthorpe

Speaking to The Yorkshire Post in Bentley, Doncaster, where a number of residents had to leave their homes due to flooding, Sir Keir said Prime Minister Boris Johnson “made promises about the floods when he eventually got round to visiting”.

He said: “And here we are in December, with him not having delivered on those promises.

“On the contrary, you’ve got cuts to the frontline, your fire service, your emergency services, I think 22 per cent over 10 years and at the same time they’ve had 17 per cent more call-outs

because of floods. So you’ve got a massive problem there.”

A Government spokesperson said: “Flooding has a devastating impact on lives and livelihoods, but since 2015 the government has invested £496m in flood defences in Yorkshire – more than any other region – better protecting more than 66,000 properties.

“And earlier this year we doubled our national investment in flood and coastal defences to a record £5.2 billion over six years which will protect hundreds of thousands more homes, and Yorkshire is set receive its share of this funding.

“Fire and rescue services have the resources they need to do their important work, including helping with flood response, and overall will receive around £2.3billion in 2020 / 21. We continue to keep future funding under review to support the sector and ensure that services have the resources they needed.”