West Yorkshire fire bosses – currently proposing to shed hundreds of jobs as the service faces public spending cuts – have warned of more financial misery to come.
A series of fire station mergers and other changes are planned to help the service cope with total spending cuts of 18.5 per cent over the next two years.
And the service is bracing itself for further spending cuts of up to 25 per cent between 2015 and 2019, which would leave it with about £12m less.
Deputy fire chief Steve Beckley has told Leeds councillors that the brigade, which currently has 1,350 firefighters, could be down to 850 by 2020.
Under the current wave of proposed station mergers and other savings recently unveiled by the service, the number of firefighters in Leeds would fall by 92 to just over 300.
The council’s safer and stronger communities board was yesterday (Oct 22) told there was no intention to make any firefighters compulsorily redundant.
The cut in numbers would be achieved by not replacing officers who retired or left.
Over 80 support staff left the service earlier this month under a voluntary early severance scheme and a further 15-20 could be made compulsorily redundant by next March.
As part of the change currently out to consultation, Morley and Hunslet station would be merged and a new station built somewhere between the two, similar mergers would also take place between Rothwell and Garforth and Cookridge and Moortown. One fire engine would be removed from Stanningley.
A report presented to the board said significant improvements in community safety and fire preventative work had led to a reduction in risk and demand for the fire and rescue services.
The number of incidents attended by the West Yorkshire brigade fell from 42,770 in 2006-7 to just over 30,000 last year and is projected to fall to 27,570 this year.
Mr Beckley said the reduction in risk and demand represented an opportunity to look at the way the way service was distributed. The board will now submit its views as part of the consultation.