West Yorkshire fire budget cuts 'obscene'

A whopping £5 million cut to the West Yorkshire fire service budget was today labelled "obscene".

Coun David Ridgway, chairman of the region's fire authority, launched a broadside at the Government after the West Yorkshire brigade suffered one of the heaviest cuts in the country.

Meanwhile chief fire officer Simon Pilling said he was "very concerned" about the future and warned that millions is needed to plug a funding blackhole.

West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Authority is having its government grant slashed by 9.2 per cent next year – compared to an average of 5.8 per cent across all fire and rescue services.

Fire authorities in the Shire counties have escaped with much smaller cuts.

The grant of Hereford and Worcester Fire Service is falling by 2.8 per cent, while Hampshire fire service's grant is not being cut at all.

Essex fire service will have its grant cut by only 0.3 per cent, while Cheshire fire service, which covers Chancellor George Osborne's Tatton constituency, will see a grant increase of 0.5 per cent.

West Yorkshire Fire Service's cut is "at the very top end" of what it had been preparing for.

Coun Ridgway said: "It is obscene that the funding axe has fallen the

hardest on those fire and rescue authorities, such as West Yorkshire, that need it most.

"Funding isn't going to the communities with the most deprivation and to authorities that are dependent on the highest levels of grant, so the challenges that we face are immense."

Chief Officer Pilling added: "The metropolitan fire authorities, of which West Yorkshire is one, all face the largest reductions in grant, almost double that of the national average for fire services.

"Should that continue to be the case millions more will need to be found."

Brigade chiefs announced in September that they anticipated about 120 posts would be axed including firefighters, retained firefighters and operational and support staff.

Voluntary redundancy has been offered to each of the brigade's 400-strong support staff and a firefighter recruitment freeze has been put in place.

The brigade will also in the New Year publish the findings of a review into every fire station, firefighter job and fire appliance across its area. This again will be used to identify areas where savings can be made.

Despite the belt-tightening, Chief Officer Pilling has warned that the brigade face even tougher cuts in future years, with another huge 18.5 per cent cut expected between 2013 and 2015.

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