The five candidates competing in Thursday’s election to become the new North Yorkshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner have set out their pledges to protect the future of the county’s under-funded fire service.
There have been recent warnings that the service, which serves around 824,000 people, is facing a “bleak” future due to under-funding, staffing shortages and out of date vehicles.
Liberal Democrat candidate James Barker, who is a York councillor, said the current situation was “not sustainable” and that this was due to the £1.8m in annual funding cuts that the service has seen since 2016.
“The government now needs to step up and deliver the funding that is desperately needed,” he said.
“In March this year, Liberal Democrats on City of York Council proposed a motion calling on the government to undertake a comprehensive funding review of fire and police services in North Yorkshire.
“With serious flooding becoming a more common occurrence, our reliance on fire and rescue services is likely to increase, and so they must be properly funded.”
Labour’s Emma Scott-Spivey, who is a student paramedic and the daughter of two police officers, also blamed government cuts for the service’s “shocking state” which she said she would “rebuild” if elected.
“What the Conservatives have done is unforgivable,” she said.
“We must fund our emergency services properly, they should be focused on saving lives, not being sacrificed to save money.”
Harrogate councillor Zoe Metcalfe is the Conservative candidate and defended the party’s record by highlighting how police and fire services have worked together, as she also promised to lobby the government for extra cash for services.
She said: “Back room blue light collaboration has worked extremely well in North Yorkshire and York, not only does it enable better intelligence sharing it maximises the resource for front line policing and fire service delivery.
“I will work closely with our Conservative MPs and lobby the government to provide more money for our fire service.”
Hannah Barham-Brown, who is standing for the Women’s Equality Party, said she was “astounded” by the pressure put on fire services, adding: “As Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner, I intend to hold regular meetings with the fire service and see how I can set the budget to try and match their needs.”
Dr Barham-Brown, who works as a GP in Leeds, also said: “As a public servant myself, I know how terrible cuts to our emergency services have been and I will lend my voice to those calling for increased funding for these lifesaving services.”
Independent candidate Keith Tordoff, who served for 20 years at West Yorkshire Police, said he “cares deeply” about the fire service as he has family members who work in it.
Setting out his priorities, he said: “We need to obtain a fair settlement from government and I will fight as hard as I can to make the case for the fire service.
“I would explore, working with the unions, to see if private sponsorship was feasible for equipment requirements.”
The election is being held after the previous commissioner Philip Allott quit following criticism over the comments he made on the murder of Sarah Everard.
Conservative Mr Allott faced repeated calls to stand down after saying Ms Everard should never have “submitted” to the fake arrest by the police officer who murdered her and that women needed to be more “streetwise”.
Voters will go to the polls to choose Mr Allott’s replacement on 25 November, with the results set to be announced the following day.