12-week listening exercise
Councillors today launched a 12-week public consultation exercise on radical plans to reform fire cover across West Yorkshire.
Chief Fire Officer Simon Pilling’s draft Integrated Risk Management Action Plan 2013-14 seeks to kick-start changes to be implemented 2016-20.
Mr Pilling explained that his intention was to address:
* the dramatic reduction in incidents, accidental fire deaths and injuries across the county over the past decade
* the likelihood of further nationally-driven austerity measures.
“The success of the brigade’s fire safety work over the past 10 years means there is undeniable scope for change and that investment now in infrastructure will allow us to relocate fire stations and resources to better locations.
“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 I’m confident we can rationalise and modernise the service whilst still providing effective fire cover.”
Mr Pilling also emphasised that the county’s fire authority was likely to face budget cuts up to 2020 and had to make long-term provision to redesign and reshape cover according to present and future risks.
“We know we have to find cuts of between and £8-12m over the next two years – and already have plans in place -- but all the messages coming out of central government project further reductions in financial support for local authorities up to 2020,” he explained.
West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Authority is dependent on central government for 60 per cent of its funding.
Mr Pilling said he could not justify ‘doing nothing’ and hoping for a medium-term financial upturn because his inability to recruit would eventually leave the existing number of stations and appliances unstaffed – giving the public a false sense of security.
If endorsed by the fire authority following consultation, his draft proposals would see the number of full-time firefighter posts reduce by 200 (through natural retirements) but eventually deliver revenue savings of £8m.
The plan would also maintain or improve fire engine response times in 23 higher risk local electoral wards.
Councillor Mehboob Khan, who chairs the fire authority, stressed that releasing the proposals for consultation should not be seen as an indication of support for them, or otherwise.
“Between now and 30 November, we are engaged in a listening exercise and nothing more. We want to be in a position to objectively balance the professional arguments and the views of local people. No final decision will be taken before the outcome of consultation is reported back to us on 21 December.”
A special Hotline is being set up to guide people through the consultation process: 01274 655717.
Formal representations (to be received by 30 November 2012) MUST be made in writing/email and directed for the attention of Hannah Stoneman, Consultation Co-ordinator, West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Authority, Oakroyd Hall, Bradford Road, Birkenshaw BD11 2DY or email@example.com
* Full details are available at www.westyorksfire.gov.uk
For further details: Public Information Office 01274 655876/655717/655807
* Rationalise emergency cover in the Keighley and Haworth areas by closing Haworth Fire Station and removing one fire engine from Keighley
* Merge Shipley and Idle fire stations at a new site between the two
* Replace one engine at Odsal with the command unit vehicle
* Introduce a fire response unit (FRU) at Fairweather Green to replace one fire engine
* Merge Hunslet and Morley fire stations at a two-appliance station between the two
* Merge Rothwell and Garforth at a one-appliance station between the two
* Merge Cookridge and Moortown at a one-appliance station between the two
* Remove an engine from Stanningley
* Rationalise emergency cover in the Wakefield city area by building a replacement fire station for Ossett closer to the city and removing one engine from Wakefield
* Rationalise cover in the Colne Valley by closing Marsden Fire Station
* Align emergency cover in the Halifax area to risk by removing one engine from Halifax
Two fire stations serve the Haworth and Keighley areas. The stations have three fire engines, one at Haworth and two at Keighley. This is generous relative to risk and activity. Haworth is a retained fire station (part-time) covering a very low risk area with few fires. When the appliance is not available (currently 27 per cent of the time) fire cover is provided from Keighley. It is therefore proposed to close Haworth and remove one of the two engines from Keighley. The remaining fire engine at Keighley would then cover the area.
Risk and activity in the areas covered by Idle and Shipley fire stations have reduced dramatically. It is proposed to merge the two stations and build a new fire station with one fire engine at an optimum location between the two.
Odsal Fire Station has two fire engines. It is recommended that one of the fire engines be replaced with a command and enhanced logistics support unit: a vehicle used to support command and control at major incidents.
Fairweather Green Fire Station currently has two fire engines. It is proposed that one of those should be replaced with a new fire response unit (FRU): an appliance used for smaller incidents. The FRU would cover the city of Bradford and surrounding areas, ensuring that fire engines remain available for more serious emergencies.
The areas covered by Hunslet and Morley fire stations are served by three fire engines, one at Morley and two at Hunslet. Changes in risk and demand support the merger of these two fire stations and the removal of one fire engine. It is proposed that a brand new fire station containing two fire engines be built to replace those at Hunslet and Morley.
Garforth and Rothwell fire stations cover an area with very low numbers of fires and other emergencies. Rothwell Fire Station is also in need of replacement due to its age and condition. These two stations currently have one engine each. It is proposed that the stations be merged and a new station, with a single fire engine, provided in an optimum location between them.
Cookridge and Moortown fire stations have one fire engine each, serving an area where there are now significantly fewer fires and other incidents. It is recommended that these two stations be merged and a new fire station with a single fire engine constructed in an optimum location between the two.
Risk and activity in the area covered by Stanningley Fire Station, which has two fire engines and a number of specialist vehicles, have reduced dramatically and it is therefore proposed that one fire engine be removed.
A number of changes and station mergers in the Wakefield district have already been completed as part of the Five Towns project, which started several years ago. Since that time, the number of fires and other emergencies has fallen significantly and further revisions in and around Wakefield are appropriate. Wakefield Fire Station currently has two fire engines, one of which is a new combined aerial rescue pump (CARP). It is planned that one fire engine from Wakefield be removed, leaving the CARP, and at the same time to build a new fire station to replace Ossett but closer to Wakefield. This would be in an optimum location to continue to provide excellent cover for the area currently served by Ossett and provide back up into central Wakefield.
Three retained (part-time) fire stations at Marsden, Slaithwaite and Meltham serve the Colne Valley. The entire area is very low risk with very few fires and three fire stations is generous provision relative to risk. It is suggested that the station at Marsden be closed and emergency cover provided from the nearby stations.
Implementation of changes to emergency cover in Calderdale has already started with the merger of Elland and Brighouse fire stations as part of IRM Action plan 2012/13. Halifax Fire Station still has two fire engines, one of which is a CARP. Risk and demand have fallen considerably and no longer justify two fire engines so it is proposed that one of those engines be removed leaving the CARP and keeping the fire engine at Illingworth.