Today's columnist, James Courtney: Could you be a firefighter?
Some readers may have seen in the news last week research carried out by the BBC into the reduction in firefighter numbers across the whole of the Yorkshire since cuts to fire service funding began in 2010. In many ways, the figures speak for themselves.
During my time as Chief Fire Officer I have made no secret of the fact that the funding cuts we have faced have been both large and unprecedented.
As a service, we have consistently committed to protecting frontline services in South Yorkshire as far as possible, including reductions in support staff, managers and non-pay budgets. Inevitably though, the size of the cuts we have faced has also led to a reduction in the number of firefighters we are able to provide.
We will, however, continue to provide the best possible value for money to the people of South Yorkshire. This includes exploring more flexible ways of providing our core 999 service, in order to maximise the frontline resources we have available with a reducing workforce. It also includes looking at new areas of work we can undertake, such as the work we are already doing with the ambulance service, from gaining access to properties at emergencies to jointly responding to some medical incidents.
We still face financial challenges and will soon be launching an organisation- wide discussion with firefighters and support staff around the type of organisation we want to be in the future. At the centre of that discussion will be you – the public we are here to serve, in the best way we can.
One area the Government has been keen to push nationally in recent years is the recruitment of more ‘on-call’ firefighters.
An ‘on-call’ or ‘part-time’ firefighter responds to the same fire and emergency calls using the same fire engines and equipment as a full-time firefighter. The only difference is that on-call firefighters are on-call at home or at work rather than permanently based at a fire station. The role offers flexible working hours and suits people with childcare commitments and other responsibilities.
While the figures quoted in the news last week showed an overall reduction in the number of on-call firefighters in Yorkshire, the numbers in South Yorkshire have stayed constant.
In fact, we are looking for new firefighters at six of our on-call fire stations.
If you are interested in serving your community in this way, I’d encourage you to find out more via our website www.syfire.gov.uk