Firefighters will find out later today if proposed cuts will lead to jobs losses and station closures across West Yorkshire. Up to 135 firefighters jobs could go and 10 fire stations face closure.
The results from the consultation period, which outlined the proposals to save money across the fire services, ended last week after a three-month period. The findings are expected to be reported back to West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Authority later today.
David Williams, a Gipton based Fire Brigade Union rep with 14 years firefighting experience, said: “Unfortunately I’m expecting the Fire Authority to agree to close 10 perfectly good stations and build 5 new ones.
“They will agree to remove 7 fully operational fire engines and reduce the operational firefighting staff. Fewer firefighters doing the same or even more incidents results in a poorer service for all.”
Included in the plans is a provision to build new a fire station to replacing existing ones. The authorities believe the cost of building a new station in east Leeds which will cover both Gipton and Stanks – rather than them having separate stations – will be off-set by selling the existing fire stations.
However, while David Williams hopes that won’t happen, the proposal said it’s due to the success of the fire services (in reducing the risk of serious fire and incidents) which justify these new measures.
The proposal states: “It’s entirely appropriate that the general reduction of risk and demand is taken account of when determining the level of resources required.”
You can see the business plan in full here:
Over the next four years, the West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Authority has to find savings of £18 million after its budget was slashed by 25% in government funding. This comes on the back of a series of cuts to the service in recent years.
Community activists plan to fight the proposals. They are incredulous at the data used by the fire authorities to present the case. The COVEN group released a counter report which questions the authorities findings. In a highly critical report, COVEN said:
“Reducing the front line services you provide and lowering the number of ‘coal face’ firefighters is wrong. Had you laid out in your business case some indication of other savings you were to make, ie reductions in revenue funding at senior management level, we may have been more sympathetic.”
Questions will also be asked about how money has been spent in recent years by the fire services. The Fire Brigades Union said £2 million has gone to Bramley fire station, £130,000 on a malfunctioning lift at the fire authority’s HQ and up to a £1 million has gone towards an empty building in Wakefield.
In 2009, recruitment was suspended in anticipation that funding would be reduced. In the meantime there’s been a Young Fire-fighters Scheme to help young local people understand what firefighters do and how they can get into the service. Despite positive feedback from all sectors, not one person has been recruited into the fire service.
“We won’t be recruiting for another five years and that’s a massive concern. You can’t buy experience and that’s vital in a service such as ours,” said David.
Interview requests from the council and fire authorities have not been returned.
What do you think? Should fire services be cut or are the measures fair given the current climate? Have your say below.
You can read COVEN’s counter report below.