Doncaster councillor Tosh McDonald: 'We cannot afford to lose at risk South Yorkshire firefighters'

A Doncaster councillor has spoken out in support of South Yorkshire firefighters who are at risk of losing their jobs.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 14 June, 2019, 15:52

More than 10,000 people have signed a petition calling to stop plans to cut 84 firefighters across the county.

The petition opposes plans to remove a night-time engine from Doncaster and Sheffield fire stations and support the union’s campaign for fairer funding for South Yorkshire Fire Service.

Former ASLEF president and Doncaster councillor Tosh McDonald spoke at the rally. Picture: Scott Merrylees/Doncaster Free Press

South Yorkshire Fire Authority says it has cost pressures of up to £4 million and is consulting on two possible options:

Whether to maintain the number of fire engines available 24/7 across the county, but reduce the number of firefighters on an engine from five to four.Or reduce the amount of fire engines available 24/7 across South Yorkshire, but keep five firefighters on each of them

Doncaster Town ward councillor and former train drivers’ union president Tosh McDonald gave a speech in support of the firefighters and said he had seen ‘first hand the valuable service and sacrifice’ they give.

Inside Sheffield Town Hall where councillors debated the petition - Thorne firefighter Neil Carbutt said the proposals were ‘devastating’.

Firefighters rally outside Sheffield Town Hall. Picture Scott Merrylees/Doncaster Free Press

“I want to make it absolutely clear from the outset who our members hold responsible for these proposed cuts - and that’s central government who have overseen this austerity agenda and inflicted it on our vital public services and communities,” he said.

Speaking before the meeting, Coun McDonald listed a number of train crashes where firefighters were central to helping people and preserving life.

“I couldn’t not have come to support my comrades in the FBU because I’ve seen at first hand what a valuable service you bring,” he said.

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“It was your service, your brave members who are coming to the rescue of the public and our members as train drivers.

“At Southey not far away from here where I lost a friend and 10 people lost their lives, 82 were injured and it was the wonderful fire brigade that came to our aid and help save people which made sure those figures were not worse than they were.

“It’s the same story over and over again - how do you put a price on that? How do you put a value on that? It’s simple - you can’t because in monetary terms there is no value.

“Whether it’s the terrorist attacks on London at 7/7 or at Manchester Arena, there is no substitute for professional, well paid, well staffed emergency services to look after the public and all of us depend on them.”

Deputy Chief Fire Officer Alex Johnson, said the public could give their views on the draft plans.

“We’d rather not make any changes at all, but we need to provide a fire service to the public not just now, not just for the next two or three years, but for decades into the future - so we have a duty to provide our service in a financially responsible way.

“We face cost pressures of up to £4 million and the extent of the savings required is inevitably going to mean changes to the way we provide our 999 service to the public.

“We think it is better to reduce the number of firefighters on a fire engine, than it is to slow down our response times to some of our communities by reducing the number of fire engines which are immediately available.

“These are draft plans and we invite the public to share their views on them- the best way is via the consultation survey on our website.”

To have your say on the consultation – visit http://www.syfire.gov.uk/haveyoursay/