John leading fight for fairer fire funding in South Yorkshire

DEARNE MP John Healey is leading the fight for a fairer funding deal for Metropolitan fire services, including South Yorkshire.

Late last year the MP launched the campaign against funding cuts amid concerns by fire chiefs that public safety will be put at risk and hundreds of firefighters will lose their jobs.

Mr Healey recently chaired another briefing for 30 MPs in Westminster and earlier this week (Monday 16 July) led a cross-party, cross-area delegation in a second meeting with the fire minister Bob Neill.

The MPs at the briefing all represent constituencies in the six Metropolitan areas – South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, Greater Manchester, Merseyside, Tyne and Wear and West Midlands.

Met fire chiefs are concerned they are shouldering the heaviest burden of the cuts while richer, rural counties are having funding increased.

Mr Healey said: “It is indefensible and inexcusable that our areas have taken the biggest hit in the first two years, while some parts of the country are getting an increase in funding.

“It proves we are not all in this together – not when it comes to fire funding.

“The fire chiefs have put together a strong, factual case about their fears for future safety and services if ministers don’t spread cuts more fairly.

“If cuts are made on the same scale for a further two years people’s lives and safety will be put at risk and fire stations would have to close.

“The fire chiefs accept the government have decided to make cuts in the total funding for fire services but the cut should be an equal amount for every service, as is being done with the police. We are backing them on that and trying to make ministers see the risks they will run.

“The fire minister has told me he has an open mind and has agreed that fire chiefs should continue detailed work with his officials.”

So far the Metropolitan brigades (Mets) have faced an average cut of more than 12%, nearly twice the national average. Having already made substantial efficiencies they are already having to cut front line services and are concerned about the consequences if this happens again in 2013/14 and 2014/15.

The further cut could be as much as 27% over these years – equalling £21.8m for West Midlands, £16.7m for Greater Manchester, £13.4m for West Yorkshire, £11m for Merseyside, £8.6m for Tyne and Wear and £8.1m for South Yorkshire.

In a briefing to MPs, the Met chiefs warn 1,000 more firefighters would be made redundant, stations would close, appliances would be lost, response times, deaths and injuries would increase, prevention programmes would be cut and it would jeopardise the country’s ability and capacity to deal with major incidents because of the significant contribution the Met brigades make to national resilience.

They are arguing that if the government are intent on a cut it should be equal across the country, around 13.5% for each service.