Risks of fire service cuts

PRECEPT FREEZE: Chief fire officer Simon Pilling.
PRECEPT FREEZE: Chief fire officer Simon Pilling.
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PLANS to close Ossett Fire Station and cut firefighter jobs would delay crews in responding to emergency calls.

The West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Authority has agreed to consult on proposals to close the station and build a new one close to junction 40 of the M1 motorway.

Ossett fire station

Ossett fire station

Union chiefs have claimed 20 local jobs would be lost in the move, out of 200 firefighter posts set to be scrapped across West Yorkshire.

There would be one fire engine at the new station and Wakefield Fire Station would lose one of the two it has now.

The authority revealed at its meeting last Friday that response times, which average seven minutes in Wakefield, would increase in almost all areas of the city.

The Fire Brigade Union (FBU) branded the proposals “irresponsible beyond belief” and said the authority should have worked with the union to get a better deal out of the government before announcing their plans.

David Williams, FBU brigade secretary, said: “We asked if the authority could delay the announcement because we don’t know what we are going to get yet with regards to the grant settlement.

“But now they’ve agreed to these proposals there’s no reason for the government to give any more money.

“The public and members within the service will be put at greater risk now, there’s no question about it.”

But Chief Fire Officer Simon Pilling insisted the proposals would not threaten people’s safety.

He said the success of the fire service over the last 20 years had allowed for the service to be reshaped, and said the plans would improve response times in some of the areas at highest risk of fire.

He said: “We’re going to lose up to £30m of our budget by 2020. Without the success we’ve had I would be nervous making these proposals, but this success enables me to look at emergency provision for the next 30 or 40 years.”

At a meeting of full council on Wednesday, leader Coun Peter Box said the council would appeal to the government over the scale of the cuts.

He said: “These proposals could potentially have serious consequences but I can empathise with the fire authority.

“We should make our feelings known to the government that the cuts at this level are not acceptable for a service which saves lives.”

Councillors in Ossett said they would host a public meeting later this year to keep people informed about the plans.