South Yorkshire: Chief fire officer says flood aid is under threat

Guardian Fire Logo
Guardian Fire Logo

South Yorkshire’s chief fire officer says the type of aid his firefighters have given to flood stricken communities across the UK could be under threat if severe Government funding cuts continue.

Teams and equipment from across South Yorkshire, including firefighters from Aston, were sent to help flooded communities in Somerset and Berkshire, helping to pump out water, put up flood defences and deliver humanitarian aid to vulnerable residents.

South Yorkshire itself benefitted from the fire service’s tradition of sharing resources during major emergencies in 2007, when more than 30 High Volume Pumps from all over the country helped to pump out flooded areas around Bentley and Toll Bar.

But chief fire officer James Courtney fears it may not be possible in the future, as he is forced to balance a reducing budget with maintaining the level of resilience needed to help tackle major emergencies when they occur.

He said: “We are doing everything we can to protect our frontline, emergency response service but the level of cuts being imposed means that, inevitably, our resources will become more stretched, so it may not always be possible to offer this kind of assistance in the future.”

“Fire and rescue services across the UK pride themselves on their ability to help each other when needed, and often it is the larger, metropolitan fire services like ourselves that are called on to provide this kind of aid.”

“Although our work to make South Yorkshire safer means incident numbers are falling, we still need to ensure we have a certain level of resilience for when serious, nationally significant events like the recent flooding occur.”

The Government cuts will have reduced the service’s budget from £60million in 2011 to under £51million by 2015, with further cuts due between now and 2017.