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Labour raise alarm on 999 cuts: Councillors say that austerity measures are unsafe

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Fire Brigades Union protest outside the Town Hall in June.

Sheffield City Council's scrutiny committee have criticised proposed cuts to the fire service.

Plans by South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue could see the number of firefighters in each crew reduced from five to four. Alternative proposals would see a cut to the number of fire engines in South Yorkshire.

The proposed cuts are the result of a decade of austerity, which has seen reductions in funding for fire services. South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue say that they need to find £4 million of annual savings.

"What is clear is that the fire service, like many of our public services, is at breaking point after nine long years of government cuts," said committee chair Ben Curran.

The proposals are dangerous and should not go through

The Labour councillor added that he wanted to see if there was "scope for using any of the reserves" to plug the financial hole. "I want to see the fire authority come back with different proposals," he said.

Neil Carbutt of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) said that he is in favour of using the authority's reserves.

"The proposals are dangerous and should not go through," he said. "We need an immediate pause. The Fire Authority has reserves and we want to see these used until we have a more definitive outcome."

In June, 10,421 people signed an FBU petition against the planned cuts.

Carbutt continued, "No one wants to see reserves being used in the longer term, this would be completely unsustainable, but there are so many unknowns at the moment it is reckless to implement the proposed changes and reduce the fire crew."

Austerity is forcing all sections of the public sector to look at difficult decisions

In 2017, 72 people died in a fire at Grenfell Tower in London. 200 firefighters in 40 fire engines were called to tackle the fire.

"Austerity is forcing all sections of the public sector to look at difficult decisions," said Labour councillor Anne Murphy.

"We heard that 17 other areas used four-person crews as standard, but these areas include only one - Tyne and Wear - of similar profile to South Yorkshire."

The scrutiny committee will present its full report to the fire authority as part of a consultation on the plans.

Sam Gregory

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