Fire chiefs back plans to close ten stations

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Fire service chiefs in West Yorkshire yesterday backed proposals to shut 10 fire stations and axe more than 100 full-time firefighters jobs.

West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Authority agreed to the changes designed to save £4m a year as its meeting yesterday.

Chief Fire Officer, Simon Pilling, ordered a review of fire cover last year because of the need to save £18m over the next four years.

The changes will see the closure of stations at Gipton, Stanks, Rawdon, Otley, Brighouse, Elland, Hemsworth, South Elmsall, Batley and Dewsbury.

They will be replaced with new stations at Killingbeck, Menston, Rastrick, South Kirkby and one in the Batley/Dewsbury area.

A smaller fire response unit will replace the second fire engine at Moortown, Leeds, and the second engine at Silsden will become a back-up appliance based at Keighley.

It was also agreed that 102 full-time firefighter posts will be lost – but the authority said all would be through planned retirements.

The proposals were criticised last month by the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) in Yorkshire which warned the swingeing cuts would put public safety at risk.

During public talks 2,973 letters of objection or concern were received raising fears about fewer firefighters and longer response times. Some support was received.

Yesterday the fire authority said the plans may take four years to fully realise.

“No one is more disappointed than me that we are having to make such fundamental changes, so quickly, but no credible alternative has been put forward,” said Mr Pilling.

“I have done everything in my power to try and find a solution which meets community risk, protects firefighter safety and avoids the need for the compulsory redundancy of our full-time firefighters.”

Coun David Ridgway, who chairs the fire authority, said the changes had been made with a “heavy heart” but he warned further savings would be needed.