Around 100 people packed into Royston Civic Hall near Barnsley on Wednesday of last week to defend their fire station.
South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue is planning cuts of up to £10 million out of a £60 million budget. It called this consultation meeting.
Their South Yorkshire-wide proposals include removing five frontline emergency fire appliances, getting rid of 140 firefighters and closing Royston Fire Station.
As Dan Jarvis, Labour MP for Barnsley Central, wrote in a message read out at the meeting, “firefighting cuts put lives at risk”.
Anger was directed at the Tories for demanding cuts and at Labour councillors on the Fire Authority for implementing them.
Speeches linking the way that trade unions are fighting attacks on pensions with how to defend the fire service got rounds of applause.
The Labour councillors for Royston backed the campaign to keep the station open.
Firefighters presented strong arguments refuting their fire chief’s case.
The mood of the meeting was summed up by one man who said, “We’re not frightened of the Tories. We fought them for a year in 1984 in the miners’ strike. We want Labour to fight these cuts, not implement them.”
The mood was so hostile to councillors and fire chiefs on the platform that they could rarely answer any point without a barrage of interruptions. At one point the chief fire officer sat with his head in his hands!
A similar meeting had taken place the week before in Hemsworth, west Yorkshire.
We need a campaign that unites trade unions, and particularly the Fire Brigades Union, with local communities to defeat these proposals.
As one retired South Yorkshire Labour councillor said, “Why are you planning cuts for a four-year period?
“Who would bet on this government lasting that long?”