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Proposals to cut 200 fire jobs criticised
Proposals to axe 200 jobs will put the lives of residents and firefighters at risk, fire crews have warned.
The Fire Brigades Union has reacted angrily following the announcement as part of a radical shake-up in emergency fire cover.
West Yorkshire Chief Fire Officer Simon Pilling announced the plan on Thursday, which he said could save £8 million from the service’s budget.
But David Williams, the FBU’s West Yorkshire brigade secretary, has warned the cuts will slow response times.
He said: “A few seconds delay can be the difference between saving a life and failing to save it.”
Mr Pilling has insisted the plan, which will be considered by the West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Authority next Friday before possibly going out to public consultation, has to happen in the face of expected budget cuts until 2020.
On Thursday he said: “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 we can rationalise and modernise while still providing effective fire cover.”
The union pointed out how last year the fire authority decided to close ten fire stations and replace them with five new ones, get rid of seven front line fire appliances and reduce the number of operational fire fighters by 135, including 20 compulsory redundancies.
And the union has warned while the effects of these cuts have not yet been felt, further proposals have been made to cut a further 11 stations and replace them with five new ones, lose another 12 front line applications and a further 250 operational firefighters, with another 20 of those being compulsory redundancies.
Mr Williams said: “After last year’s announcement of station closures they’ve planned over the next few years, firefighters across the county raised concerns for the safety of our communities and that of firefighters responding to emergencies.
“To propose a further raft of station closures and the loss of a further 250 frontline emergency firefighters is irresponsible beyond belief.
“Firefighters are members of these communities too and they know the impact these proposals will make if they are approved by the Fire Authority next week.
“Closing two fire stations and then building a new one to cover both station grounds means that fire crews will face longer journeys to arrive at emergency incidents, and longer response times will cost lives.
“We’ve already seen a significant increase in attendance times for the first appliance arriving from five minutes 41 seconds to at least seven minutes.”