Plans for far-reaching reform of the county‟s fire and rescue service were given the go ahead by councillors today, following record levels of public feedback.
West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Authority considered more than 12,000 consultation representations from across the county, as part of a 12-week “listening exercise” concluding on 30 November 2012.
In light of the consultation and following professional analysis, Chief Fire Officer Simon Pilling presented revised proposals that received Authority approval for implementation between 2013- 2020.
The Authority faces significant reductions in central government grants between now and 2016, and the financial outlook for the next spending review period (2015-2019) presents further cuts in funding.
These county-wide plans will deliver savings of over £7m. in addition to £7.2m. of savings that will have been delivered by the Authority by March 2014.
There will be 201 full-time firefighter posts removed from the establishment, but all through planned retirements.
Chief Fire Officer Simon Pilling said he fully understood the concerns of people who had objected to the original proposals during public consultation and had explored the options that were operationally sound and in the best long-term interests of the Authority.
Chief Fire Officer Simon Pilling said:
There is no questioning the depth of feeling that the public have for the fire service. We do provide an incredibly important service for local communities and I cannot praise our firefighters enough for their continued dedication. These are exceptionally difficult times for all public services but we cannot ignore the reality of financial cuts and the need to make fundamental changes to secure the future of the county‟s fire service.
We have had significant success in reducing the total number of emergency incidents in West Yorkshire. In the past 10 years, between 2001/2 and 2011/12, the total number of incidents has reduced by 42 per cent, and the number of primary fires has reduced dramatically by 70 per cent. The success of this brigade‟s fire safety work means that there is undeniable scope for change.
My proposals will still enable us to deliver a first-class emergency service which meets community risk, protects firefighter safety and contributes significantly to addressing the financial gap the Authority must address.
Councillor Mehboob Khan, who chairs the Fire Authority, said his colleagues had to make tough decisions.
Councillor Mehboob Khan said:
The fight with Whitehall for fairer funding goes on. The Authority is tackling, head on, its responsibility to provide and maintain the best fire and rescue service that resources will permit,” he said. “This is the second consecutive year that the Chief Fire Officer has had to propose changes as part of a review of emergency cover to meet the deepest budget cuts this Authority has faced.
We don‟t take our duty lightly and applaud the record levels of community feedback regarding this important change for the county, taking some comfort from the fact that a great many consultees recognised our dilemma.
That said, unless the precept rises by almost 10p per week per household, then as unpalatable as it will be, this Authority will have to consider further cuts.
A summary of the changes to emergency cover, approved by the Authority today, is as follows. These will be implemented between 2013-2020:
- Remove one fire engine from Fairweather Green and replace this with a Fire Response Unit, to be dual crewed with the Command Unit and Welfare Unit. The current wholetime shift duty system will apply, ensuring immediate response 24 hours per day.
- Remove the second fire engine from Keighley, with the closure of Haworth fire station being suspended for a maximum of two years to allow a detailed feasibility study to be completed on any possible alternatives.
- Close Shipley and Idle fire stations and replace them with a new fire station with one fire engine at a site in the vicinity of the Leeds Road/Cragg Road/Briggate area ensuring a response within the Risk Based Planning Assumptions (RBPA) to the higher risk areas. The current wholetime shift duty system will apply, ensuring immediate response 24 hours per day.
- Remove one fire engine from Odsal.
- Remove one fire engine from Halifax and provide a fully equipped Resilience Pump which can be utilised when required as an alternative to the Combined Aerial Rescue Pump.
- Close Marsden Fire Station.
- Remove the second fire engine at Stanningley and replace it with the Fire Response Unit for Leeds District, to be dual crewed with the High Volume Pump, Hose Layer and Welfare Unit. The current wholetime shift duty system will apply, ensuring immediate response 24 hours per day.
- Retain Hunslet and Morley fire stations in their current locations and remove one fire engine from Hunslet. The Day Crew staffing system will apply at Morley and the current wholetime shift duty system will apply at Hunslet, ensuring immediate response 24 hours per day.
- Close Cookridge and Moortown fire stations and replace them with a new fire station with one fire engine between the two at a suitable location to provide appropriate cover for both areas. The current wholetime shift duty system will apply, ensuring immediate response 24 hours per day.
- Retain Rothwell and Garforth fire stations in their current locations. The Day Crew staffing system will apply at both fire stations.
- Remove one fire engine from Wakefield and provide a fully equipped Resilience Pump which can be utilised when required as an alternative to the Combined Aerial Rescue Pump and construct a new fire station to replace Ossett at Junction 40 of the M1 motorway.