West Yorkshire suffering firefighter exodus as staff leave for London after Grenfell Tower disaster

The local fire service will be beefing up its fire protection team due to a "a lack of capacity to deal with existing workload."

Friday, 20th September 2019, 3:29 pm
Updated Friday, 20th September 2019, 4:29 pm
The Fire Service is planning cuts in response to the staff exodus
The Fire Service is planning cuts in response to the staff exodus

Increasing the capacity in the Fire Protection Team, which is responsible for making sure businesses and public venues are safe from fire, is one of a series of changes that West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service has proposed in a shake up of local services.

A report by the West Yorkshire Fire Authority reveals that the the team has recently been depleted due to staff leaving for better paid private sector jobs following a post Grenfell Tower recruitment drive.

But despite the proposed boost in this area, there will be cuts elsewhere.

Shift patterns will change at several stations across the district, including South Kirkby, Castleford and Normanton.

Currently there are plans to reduce the number of the service's "aerial appliances" - engines with large, cherry picker style attachments to deal with fire from above, from five to four. The appliance currently based at Halifax will not be replaced in 2023, although appliances in Bradford, Huddersfield, Wakefield and Leeds will remain.

The service's resilience fleet - a fleet of fully equipped fire engine that is available to be used at short notice, will be reduced from 11 to just 5. And there will also be a change in shift patterns at South Kirkby, Normanton and Castleford fire stations.

The changes were discussed at a meeting of West Yorkshire Fire Authority yesterday when members voted to approve a 10 week public consultation into the proposals.Fire chiefs told the committee that the changes will not lead to any changes in staffing levels.

A report to the Authority explained pressures on the Fire Protection service, saying: "There is a lack of capacity to deal with existing workload within the Fire Protection Team.

A recruitment drive in London after the Grenfell tragedy has seen several firefighters leave West Yorkshire.

"The number of requests for advice, fire safety complaints and referrals to fire safety inspectors from operational crews has increased significantly.

On top of this increased workload, it is anticipated that additional fire safety responsibilities will be placed on Fire and Rescue Services nationally.

"Following a large private sector recruitment drive following the Grenfell tragedy, a number of inspectors decided to leave West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue for increased salaries."

At the meeting Nick Smith, assistant fire chief, said: "We believe that following the national Grenfell Enquiry services across the country will have to increase capacity in their fire safety teams. This is a first step for us to do this."

He said aerial appliances were needed 100 times last year, and the service could cope with the reduction from five to four, although response times may increase in rural areas of Calderdale.

Councillor Steve Tulley from Wakefield said: "My plea with this is we have to have everyone on board with this, the communities, the Fire Brigade Union and all other interested parties."

People can have their say on the plans by visiting westyorksfire.gov.uk/ and commenting before November 29.

Local Democracy Reporting Service