Fire stations to close or merge and 200 jobs to go as brigade cuts hit hard

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SIX fire stations across West Yorkshire are to be closed or merged after plans forecast to save £7m were given the go-ahead.

More than 200 full-time firefighter posts will be lost under the cost-cutting measures, it was confirmed.

Shipley and Idle stations in Bradford are to be closed and replaced with one new station serving both areas, as are Moortown and Cookridge in Leeds.

Marsden station in Huddersfield will be shut as will Haworth following a feasibility study looking at alternative options.

Seven fire engines are to be lost from the remaining stations under the changes, which will be put in place from next year to 2020.

There were a record 12,000 responses to a 12-week consultation by the West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Authority.

It resulted in a reprieve for Morley, Hunslet, Rothwell and Garforth stations, which had faced being merged before the proposals were revised.

Chief Fire Officer Simon Pilling said he understood the depth of public feeling but changes were necessary in the face of huge budget pressures.

“My proposals will still enable us to deliver a first-class emergency service which meets community risk, protects firefighter safety and contributes significantly to addressing the financial gap the authority must address,” he said.

The Yorkshire Post revealed yesterday the brigade stands to lose £8m of spending power by 2015 as a result of Government cuts.

Announcing its decision yesterday, the authority said the financial outlook for the next spending review period from 2015 to 2019 also looked bleak.

The shake-up is expected to save more than £7m on top of £7.2m the authority will have already saved by March 2014.

Councillor Mehboob Khan, who chairs the fire authority, said his colleagues had to make tough decisions as “the fight with Whitehall for fairer funding goes on”.

“Unless the precept rises by almost 10p per week per household, then, as unpalatable as it will be, this authority will have to consider further cuts,” he warned.

All firefighter posts to be lost will be shed through planned retirements, the authority said.