West Yorkshire: Anger at secrecy over fire plans

FIRED UP: Local residents have reacted angrily to proposals to close Rothwell fire station.
FIRED UP: Local residents have reacted angrily to proposals to close Rothwell fire station.
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Fire chiefs faced criticism today after refusing to reveal which areas will be emergency response time losers if proposed brigade cutbacks get the go-ahead.

West Yorkshire’s chief fire officer, Simon Pilling, wants to axe 200 full-time firefighter jobs and close a string of fire stations.

A report on Mr Pilling’s plans that is now available online sets out how the shake-up would affect fire response times in council wards across the county.

The report says response times in six wards will rise by more than two minutes if the proposals are approved.

Response times in another 11 wards will be between one and two minutes longer.

The report does not, however, specify which wards will be affected.

And yesterday (Sept 3) West Yorkshire Fire Service turned down a request from the Yorkshire Evening Post for their names to be released.

That decision was today condemned as “unacceptable” by Greg Mulholland, MP for Leeds North West.

He told the YEP: “It seems very odd that the fire service has published proposals for this major restructuring and yet is not prepared to say which places will be detrimentally affected in terms of response times.”

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A fire service spokesman said the names of the wards would not be released before a meeting of the West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Authority this Friday.

The authority is made up of councillors who oversee the policies and work of the fire service.

They will decide at Friday’s meeting if Mr Pilling’s plan will be put out for public consultation.

If the consultation goes ahead, it is then that the ward names would be revealed, said the spokesman.

Fire stations earmarked for closure by Mr Pilling include Rothwell, Garforth, Cookridge, Moortown, Hunslet and Morley in Leeds. They would be replaced by three new bases.

Stations in Ossett, Haworth, Shipley, Idle and Marsden would also be closed or merged.

A total of 23 council wards will have the same or better response times if the proposals go through.

Nearly 85 wards would see their response times rise by less than a minute.

Mr Pilling’s blueprint is designed to deliver annual savings of £8m and would be put into practice between 2016 and 2020.

* A petition has been launched by Rothwell councillors Karen Bruce and David Nagle against the proposed closure of the town’s fire station.

The petition can be signed online at: http://sbpr.co/sosfire

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