‘Desperate’ villagers plan to run their own fire service

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ONE of the region’s smallest parish councils is proposing to take responsibility for the area’s fire service.

Haworth Parish Council has an annual budget of just £33,000 but councillors are determined to protect residents from proposed cuts which could see the closure of the village fire station.

They have drawn up tentative proposals to have Haworth fire station transferred to them and for the establishment of a ‘first responder’ style fire and rescue vehicle, such as a Land Rover.

The parish council has written to West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Authority with the proposals.

Coun John Huxley, chairman of the parish council, which covers Haworth, Cross Roads and Stanbury, admits that the idea is a “risky venture”.

“We are aware that undertaking such a project is a serious and potentially risky venture for a parish council but following discussions with residents, who have a background in the armed services and related industries, we feel that there is sufficient support for the proposition and the idea of a public meeting.”

In a letter to the fire authority’s Hannah Stoneman, who is co-ordinating consultation on the budget cuts proposals, Mr Huxley says there is great concern about the proposed closure of Haworth fire station and the reduction in firefighting units at nearby Keighley fire station.

He adds: “You will understand that we do not undertake such projects lightly; it has significant issues we need to resolve.

“However, you need to understand that the reaction to your proposed changes has brought a previously unseen level of indignation, fear and determination.

“I am more than willing to meet with anyone to discuss our proposition and how this may fit into your proposals for the future.”

A parish council spokeswoman said details about contracts, pay and other issues had yet to be worked out.

She said council taxpayers in the parish would have to pay more if the proposals did come to fruition.

The Fire Brigades Union welcomed the parish council’s idea.

David Williams, of the FBU in West Yorkshire, said the idea should be “applauded”.

He suggested that, for a parish council to come up with such a plan, councillors must be “desperate” to protect services.

“It is an honourable suggestion and might be the last throw of the dice.”

A fire authority spokesman said: “We look forward to talking further with the Parish Council.”