South Yorkshire fire chiefs have been left red-faced after condemned appliances which together cost £1 million were sold for a fraction of their cost.
Bosses at South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue purchased four combined aerial rescue pumps at a cost of £500,000 each in 2006 – but they were soon condemned after being deemed too heavy for use on the roads.
A further £700,000 was then spent making them fit for use on the roads in Doncaster and across the county – but in 2011 officials from the Fire Brigades Union warned their use could result in a loss of life after they kept catching alight.
The fire service continued to use the appliances, but a Freedom of Information request has now revealed how the four appliances broke down, or were ‘off the run’ due to mechanical problems, 127 times in just two years.
The service attempted to recoup some of the millions lost on the CARPs by selling two of them – but they brought in a combined price of just £75,000 when purchased this month.
Former fire officer John Thompson has now dubbed the sale as a ‘massive waste of money’.
The 87-year-old, of Crusader Drive, Sprotbrough, said: “They’ve barely been used since the beginning, because of all of the problems, and now we find out they’ve only been sold for £75,000.
“Someone, somewhere, needs to take responsibility for this, because hundreds of thousands of pounds have been wasted. I don’t know what they were thinking when they bought them.”
But a service spokesman said the CARPs have actually saved the brigade money, ‘compared to the cost of procurement’, since their purchase nine years ago.
He said: “In reducing the firefighter establishment by 36 posts, they have saved the service about £1.25m per year since April 2011.
“The sheer scale of the cuts to our funding meant that in 2013 we had to look at our service provision from a blank sheet of paper.
“We asked ourselves, if we were starting from scratch, would we choose to have the CARPs in our fleet?
“After listening carefully to the views of our firefighters, the answer was ‘no’, because their performance had not met our expectations.
“Our future aerial capability will be maintained by two new turntable ladder appliances which have arrived in South Yorkshire.
“These will be based at fire stations in Doncaster and Sheffield.”