Storm of protest at West Yorkshire fire cuts proposal

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Fire chiefs chiefs in West Yorkshire were today facing an angry political backlash against proposed job cuts and station closures.

As reported in Friday’s Yorkshire Evening Post, West Yorkshire’s chief fire officer, Simon Pilling, wants to axe 200 full-time firefighter posts.

He is also planning to close Hunslet, Morley, Rothwell, Garforth, Cookridge and Moortown fire stations in Leeds and replace them with three new bases.

Opposition to the money-saving proposals has been led by the Fire Brigades Union, with West Yorkshire chair John Durkin saying they could put lives at risk.

Now Leeds MP Greg Mulholland and a string of councillors have joined the FBU in voicing alarm at Mr Pilling’s plans.

Mr Mulholland (Lib Dem), whose Leeds North West constituency includes Cookridge station, said: “I am concerned about these proposals and the potential impact they could have throughout the whole of Leeds.

“Cookridge Fire Station is a vital unit and its strategic position between Leeds Bradford Airport and Leeds is one of utmost importance to the safety of residents.”

Coun Stewart Golton, leader of the Lib Dem group on Leeds City Council and member for Rothwell, said: “[The fire stations] most certainly will not be allowed to shut down without a fight.”

Coun Karen Bruce (Lab, Rothwell) branded the plans “totally unacceptable”.

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Criticism also came from Coun Robert Finnigan, leader of the Morley Borough Independent Group.

There was support for Mr Pilling, however, from Alec Shelbrooke, Conservative MP for Elmet and Rothwell.

Mr Shelbrooke, whose constituency includes Garforth and Rothwell stations, said: “I understand the proposed changes will improve emergency response times and this is what matters most to my constituents.”

If approved, Mr Pilling’s plans would take effect between 2016 and 2020.

He says they would deliver annual savings of £8m, helping the county’s fire service cope with Government funding cuts.

Brigade bosses also say it is hoped none of the job losses would be compulsory.

Plans have already been approved for the axing of more than 100 full-time firefighter posts and the closure of 10 stations in West Yorkshire in the period up to 2016.

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