SYFRS logoFirefighters in South Yorkshire are to hold a ballot for industrial action over plans to cut a quarter of emergency control operators.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) said the cuts would put the public at "greater risk" but South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue (SYFR) suggest that the number of calls had "fallen significantly in recent years". Figures show a near 20,000 drop in calls from 2004-05 (48,249 calls) to 2014-15 (29,291 calls).

In a statement, the Service said: "The number of calls to our control room has fallen significantly in recent years. At the same time, we have had some big reductions to our funding and expect to lose a further £5 million from our annual budget over the next four years.

"We have already reduced the number of managers, back office staff and non-pay budgets, but must now look at other areas, including Control, to help protect the number of fire engines available to respond to 999 calls. Other, comparable fire services have similar numbers of Control staff with no impact on their service to the public."

The FBU said the 32 operators played a "vital role" and the plan to lose eight showed a "callous disregard for public and firefighter safety".

Regional secretary Pete Smith added: "Fire chiefs have lost the trust and respect of their staff through these savage cuts to fire control, leaving us with no option but to ballot for industrial action. Emergency control staff are the very first people you’ll speak to when you’re in an emergency.

"Firefighters rely on them to get all the vital information to perform a rescue as fast and efficiently as possible. They are an invaluable component of the lifesaving service firefighters provide. The public in South Yorkshire will be put at greater risk if these posts are cut."