The fire service says the latest round of government funding reductions means it expects to lose another £5 million from its annual budget over the next four years.
South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue has already lost more than £8 million since 2010 and has so far managed to minimize the impact of those cuts on its core emergency response service by reductions in support staff, managers and non-pay budgets.
The service has also introduced alternative ways of staffing fire stations, which has reduced costs whilst maintaining a similar level of fire cover.
But Chief Fire Officer James Courtney says the next round of cuts, announced before Christmas, mean the fire service’s ability to respond to national emergencies such as flooding and terrorism could be threatened.
South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue twice sent firefighters and specialist vehicles to support the national response to severe flooding in December, helping communities in Lancashire and Cumbria.
Mr Courtney said: “We already provide excellent value for money to the people of South Yorkshire with one of the leanest fire services in the country, considering the size of the area we have to cover and the risks associated with a large, urban population.
“Unfortunately, we are not being afforded the same financial protection as the police or ambulance services. I am concerned about the ways this may affect our service in the long term, including our ability to respond to national emergencies such as flooding and terrorism related incidents.
“We have already committed to protecting frontline services as far as possible, but continued sizeable cuts to our funding mean we will have to look at further ways to save money, including possible reductions in the number of immediately available fire engines, which can only have a negative effect on our ability to respond to emergencies.”
The Government announced yesterday that fire and rescue services will come under Home Office control in 2016 with the Home Secretary previously stating that she wants to follow through reforms in areas such as procurement, IT infrastructure and building management.
“We are already exploring significant collaboration opportunities with the police in a number of areas, from fleet management and sharing premises to the new joint police and fire station in Maltby, which will open later this year. We are also assisting the ambulance service in a number of areas operationally, from gaining access to properties at emergencies to jointly responding to some types of medical incidents.
“We will continue to pursue opportunities for further and more efficient working with all of our emergency service partners, but still believe the fire service has some unique skills and specialisms which must be protected,” said James.
The Chief Fire Officer has previously lobbied Government on the issue of funding and recently wrote to South Yorkshire MPs calling on them to back an Early Day Motion, which called for a halt on further fire service cuts nationally.