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Unions attack plans to axe Haworth and Keighley fire services
Union leaders have attacked proposals to axe 200 frontline firefighters and maintain that the radical move will put lives at risk across the district.
Last Friday West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Authority gave the go-ahead for a 12-week public consultation to cut staff and close stations across West Yorkshire with a final decision being made on the plans in December.
The success of fire prevention measures and sweeping cuts by central Government have been blamed for proposals which include the closure of Haworth fire station and the removal of an appliance from Keighley.
But Dave Williams, the secretary of the Fire Brigade Union (FBU), said they were disappointed as they had asked the authority to delay announcing the plans as they did not know how much funding was being cut by central Government. They fear 230 jobs are at risk and Mr Williams said the consultation could just be a “paper exercise” and called on councillors to object.
Mr Williams said: “The consultation is nothing short of a farce and the authority abdicates all responsibility by putting information on their website. Their last consultation attracted 2,000 people out of a population of more than two million.
“If these proposals go ahead, it will mean between 2001 to 2015 there has been a 30 per cent reduction in firefighters and we have not recruited since 2009.”
Concern was echoed by Councillor Valerie Binney, a representative for Bradford’s Conservatives on the authority, who said the proposals were a “step too far”.
West Yorkshire’s Chief Fire Officer Simon Pilling defended the plans and said he would be incredibly nervous at the thought of the radical plans if fire prevention had not been so successful, but did admit that response times in high-risk areas could increase by seven seconds with the changes.
In the past ten years firefighters have fitted more than one million smoke detectors in West Yorkshire homes and inspected more than 35,000 industrial and commercial premises.
He said the authority’s £90 million budget could be reduced by £25-£30 million by 2020 and they had to put plans in place to counteract that.
“Our success without a shadow of a doubt enables me to look at emergency response provision for the next 30 to 40 years,” he said.
“We have faced heavier cuts than other authorities and are lobbying hard against those cuts, but this set of proposals is the optimum one which creates the least impact in terms of public safety.”
He said there was “no intention to alter the approach to deliver effective public safety through fire prevention”.
There will be public forums, special interest groups, meetings with MPs, and neighbourhood forums as well as a special hotline on (01274) 655717.
The consultation ends on November 30. For details, visit westyorksfire.gov.uk.