THOUSANDS of residents in more than 100 council wards across West Yorkshire will lose out on emergency response times if radical fire service cutbacks are carried out.
West Yorkshire Fire Authority members yesterday voted unanimously for proposals to axe a string of fire stations and cut 200 jobs to go out to a 12 week public consultation
The authority has released figures showing how the massive changes - the biggest shake-up in the history of the service – would impact on response times to emergency calls.
Six council wards where response timers would increase by more than two minutes would be the biggest losers under the new proposals.
In the Worth Valley, response times would increase by 3.47 minutes, by 3.34 mins in Idle and Thackley and by 3.31mins in Ossett.
Response times would go up by 3.17mins in Shipley, by 3.0mins in Rothwell and by 2.37mins in Morley South.
Response times in eleven council wards – including Alwoodley, Ardsley and Robin Hood, Morley North, Roundhay, Harewood, Kippax and Methley, Moortown and Horbury and South Ossett, will increase by one to two minutes.
A total of 84 wards will see response times increase by up to one minute.
David Williams, brigade secretary for Fire Brigades’ Union West Yorkshire branch, said: “The public in Leeds and across West Yorkshire will be at greater risk because of the extended turn out times if these proposals go ahead.
“Typically, a house fire will double in size every minute.”
West Yorkshire’s chief fire officer Simon Pilling stressed the service is set to lose up to £30m of it’s anual £90m budget by 2020 due to Government funding cuts.
He said: “Public safety is absolutely top priority of West Yorkshire Fire Service. We are able to provide an excellent level of emergency response and capability to deal with the broad range of incidents and activity the fire service deals with.
Mr Pilling added: “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.”
Fire chiefs say the plan would also maintain or improve fire engine response times in 23 higher risk local electoral wards.
The public consultation will start on September 7 and end on November 30.
The fire authority will meet again on December 21 to consider the outcome of the public consultation.
If given the go ahead, the new proposals for the ‘Integrated Risk Management Action Plan 2013-14’ will be put in to practice between 2016 and 2020. Full details on how to make representations about the proposals are available at www.westyorksfire.gov.uk