Venue: Council Chamber - Civic Office. View directions
Declarations of Interest, if any
There were no declarations of interest made at the meeting.
[A period not exceeding 20 minutes for statements from up to 5 members of the public on matters within the Panel’s remit, proposing actions(s) which may be considered or contribute towards the future development of the Committee’s work programme]
Mr N. Carbutt, a Doncaster resident, made the following statement:-
“I am pleased for the opportunity to speak on behalf of our members and indeed and importantly the residents of Sheffield and the other 3 Unitary Authorities.
We have gathered and submitted 10,421 signatures against these proposals in a very short space of time. The people of Doncaster are angry that our service that they hold very dear, is being cut to the bone and through it the petitions size should indicate that strength of feeling.
I want to make it absolutely clear from the outset who our members hold responsible for these proposed cuts and that it is Central Government who have overseen this austerity agenda and inflicted it on our vital public services and communities.
Since 2010 and beyond, our service has seen dramatic reductions in Government grant and our services spending power has been reduced. The latest proposals to remove up to 84 Firefighter posts which will mean the loss of one Firefighter off every Fire Engine across the 4 shifts that we have. To put that cut into context, we have only 80 Firefighters on duty at any one time on any given day.
The draft proposals are frankly devastating. If those savings are not enough on their own, draft proposals to consider removing night time fire cover from the second night time fire engines at Sheffield and Doncaster will be considered. 84 Firefighters equates to nearly a sixth of the service; we have currently 594 Firefighters.
The Services Risk Management Plan sets out these cuts against a backdrop of £3.8m of potential funding shortfall. We in South Yorkshire suffer from a lack of funding because of density for our size of geographic area and a lack of coastline, and we are disproportionately affected.
I am a Firefighter at Thorne, miles away from here east of Doncaster, which is a relatively low activity Station in terms of incidents, but our next nearest Fire Station is 11 minutes away at Goole, and our next nearest South Yorkshire Fire Station is at Doncaster some 14 minutes from help.
In our area we have prisons and an Immigration Centre, a COMAH site which is a major gas pipeline and network, an International Airport, 3 motorways and main line rail. Imagine turning up to an incident with just four people on a Fire Engine to any of those situations?
So Councillors, we do have a funding shortfall and we do have risks to cover. The reserves we hold, general and earmarked, sit at nearly £25m on an operating budget of £50m. Those reserves are not unhealthy and are actually becoming a barrier for a fairer funding formula for South Yorkshire at that high level.
We ask this Council and ask its representatives on the Fire Authority, to review that reserve strategy. Give us the breathing space to lobby Central Government longer and harder, and stop these cuts. Consider borrowing over the long term if necessary. Review our predicted expenditure and ... view the full minutes text for item 2.
The Panel received an overview of the South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue’s (SYFR) Integrated Risk Management Plan (IRMP) from the Deputy Chief Fire Officer, Alex Johnson, and the Director of Support Services, South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service, Stuart Booth.
As detailed within the Medium Term Financial Plan, it was reported that as the SYFR had lost a court case in respect of Close Proximity Crewing, which would have saved over £1.4m a year, and along with the pensions deficit which Public Sectors across the Country had to fund which could cost up to £3m per year, opportunities to make savings had to be explored.
The DCFO stated that SYFR had continued to lobby Central Government, the Home Office Inspectorate, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate, Fire Minister and the Shadow Fire Minister, to obtain further funding and that SYFR had to produce an IRMP which outlined the steps which would need to be taken within the resources at the SYFR’s disposal, to improve public safety, reduce fires and save lives.
Reviews into support services had already been undertaken, all contracts had been re-examined and pay budgets were currently being assessed. However, SYFR Fire Stations were spread ‘quite thinly’ within the County of South Yorkshire and that it did not want to increase incident attendance times. Consideration had been given to amalgamate Fire Stations and relocate Stations to more central locations, but attendance times to incidents at outer locations within its geographical area would increase. It was not a priority to reduce the number of Fire Engines, but to maintain the speed of the emergency response. Therefore, the IRMP proposed to retain the same number of Fire Engines in the existing locations, but reduce the number of Firefighters riding a Fire Engine from 5 to 4, which the SYFR was undertaking 32% of the time currently. The DCFO stressed that whilst the number of Firefighters currently employed at some of the Fire Stations would reduce, this would be achieved by natural wastage.
The DoSS stated that the Service had a potential cumulative budget shortfall of £5.2m until 2022, which was largely due to the anticipated ongoing funding reductions. The Fire Service was an ‘unprotected’ Department which meant that it would not receive any ‘special status’ as the National Health Service, the Police and some Local Government Departments.
It was reported that SYFR was also facing a number of cost pressures, principally the Judicial Review into Close Proximity Crewing, which had cost £1.4m a year and also the Public Services pensions deficit which would cost £3m a year. At this stage, the Government had already indicated its intention to fund the pension deficit for one year, for 2019/20. Beyond that, it had given SYFR no assurances that it would fund it in future years.
Members were informed that options for saving £5.2m by 2020/22 were limited, especially after 10 years of austerity which had seen the Central Government grant reduced by 34% since 2010. As the majority of the budget was spent on salaries ... view the full minutes text for item 3.