Radical plans to reform fire cover put out to public consultation

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Councillors today (Fri) launched a 12-week public consultation exercise on radical plans to reform fire cover across West Yorkshire.

Chief Fire Officer Simon Pilling’s draft Integrated Risk Management Action Plan 2013-14 seeks to kick-start changes to be implemented 2016-20.

Mr Pilling explained that his intention was to address the dramatic reduction in incidents, accidental fire deaths and injuries across the county over the past decade.

And, the likelihood of further nationally-driven austerity measures.

“The success of the brigade’s fire safety work over the past 10 years means there is undeniable scope for change and that investment now in infrastructure will allow us to relocate fire stations and resources to better locations.

“Accidental fire deaths and injuries are at an all-time low and some stations are now half as busy as they were a few years ago so I’m confident we can rationalise and modernise the service whilst still providing effective fire cover.”

The recommendations for Calderdale are: The implementation of changes to emergency cover in Calderdale which has already started with the merger of Elland and Brighouse fire stations as part of IRM Action plan 2012/13.

Halifax Fire Station still has two fire engines, one of which is a Combined Aerial Rescue Pump. Risk and demand have fallen considerably and no longer justify two fire engines so it is proposed that one of those engines be removed leaving the CARP and keeping the fire engine at Illingworth.

Mr Pilling emphasised that the county’s fire authority was likely to face budget cuts up to 2020 and had to make long-term provision to redesign and reshape cover according to present and future risks.

“We know we have to find cuts of between and £8-12 million over the next two years – and already have plans in place - but all the messages coming out of central government project further reductions in financial support for local authorities up to 2020,” he said.

West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Authority is dependent on central government for 60 per cent of its funding.

Mr Pilling said he could not justify doing nothing and hoping for a medium-term financial upturn because his inability to recruit would eventually leave the existing number of stations and appliances unstaffed – giving the public a false sense of security.

If endorsed by the fire authority following consultation, his draft proposals would see the number of full-time firefighter posts reduce by 200 (through natural retirements) but eventually deliver revenue savings of £8 million.

The plan would also maintain or improve fire engine response times in 23 higher risk local electoral wards.

Councillor Mehboob Khan, who chairs the fire authority, stressed that releasing the proposals for consultation should not be seen as an indication of support for them, or otherwise.

“Between now and November 30, we are engaged in a listening exercise and nothing more.

“We want to be in a position to objectively balance the professional arguments and the views of local people.

“No final decision will be taken before the outcome of consultation is reported back to us on December 21.”

A special Hotline is being set up to guide people through the consultation process: 01274 655717.

Formal representations (to be received by November 30, 2012) MUST be made in writing/email and directed for the attention of Hannah Stoneman, Consultation Co-ordinator, West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Authority, Oakroyd Hall, Bradford Road, Birkenshaw BD11 2DY or consultation@westyorksfire.gov.uk

Full details are available at www.westyorksfire.gov.uk