Fire officers say they will face difficult decisions about how to maintain their 999 response service, if they are unable to continue using a fire station staffing system in place since 2014.
Four of South Yorkshire’s 21 fire stations use a system called ‘Close Proximity Crewing’, which saves around £1.6 million from the service’s annual budget without any affect on 999 response times.
The voluntary system sees firefighters ‘on-call’ while living at the station for up to 4 days a week, in exchange for a 29% pay increase.
Crew members are provided with accommodation and recreational facilities, and are allowed family visitors during stand-down time.
The same system, or variants of it, are also used by around a quarter of other fire and rescue services, but reference to the system in South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue’s Integrated Risk Management Plan, published in April 2017, has been challenged by the Fire Brigade’s Union.
The dispute centres on CPCs non-compliance with working time regulations, despite the Health & Safety Executive noting that other shift patterns which CPC has replaced also do not comply- including a system known as ‘2-2-4’ which is the most commonly used crewing system in place at fire stations in the UK.
A legal judgement on whether CPC can remain in SYFR’s plans has been postponed until the end of April.
Deputy Chief Fire Officer Martin Blunden, said: “The most recent plans, which were approved by the Fire Authority in 2017, reaffirm the commitment we have repeatedly made since the beginning of austerity in 2010, to provide the best possible service to the people of South Yorkshire within the resources which are available to us.
“For us, CPC remains part of fulfilling that vision and a move away from the system would require us to make other changes to our 999 service which will inevitably impact on our emergency response.”
South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue has lost a quarter of its Government funding since 2010. Its fire stations at Lowedges, Tankersley, Edlington and Aston Park currently use Close Proximity Crewing.