Hundreds of firefighters marched through Leeds to protest against cuts that they say will affect front line services. Adam Fowler reports
Hundreds of firefighters have gathered in Leeds city centre to protest against cuts to the fire service, which they say, will affect front line services.
West Yorkshire Police's Deputy Chief Fire Officer, Steve Beckley says the cuts are necessary in order to meet budget cuts put in place by the Government. He defends the decision to close 21 stations and open just 10 new ones, stating that some response times could be faster.
West Yorkshire fire crews organised a rally and march around Leeds city centre today, Saturday 3rd November, in reaction to proposed budget cuts, which they say will affect their frontline services.
This year's proposed cuts include:
- closing 11 fire stations (and building just 5 new ones)
- a loss of 12 front line appliances
- the loss of 250 operational firefights with another 20 of those being compulsory redundancies.
This is on top of last year's cuts that the fire authority approved which were:
- close 10 fire stations (and build just 5 new ones)
- get rid of 7 front line appliances, and,
- reduce the number of operational firefighters by 135, including 20 redundancies.
Members of the Fire Brigades Union are opposing the plans because they say the changes could cost lives. They say if the latest proposals are approved by the fire authority it will mean that in 12 months they have:
- agreed to close 21 fire stations, and replace them with just 10 new ones
- taken 19 fire appliances out of action, and
- cut 350 firefights from the frontline
– David Williams, West Yorkshire FBU brigade secretary
"Firefighters are angry because these cuts will double the size of some station grounds which in turn will slow response times. In emergency situations every second counts, a few seconds delay can be the difference between saving a savable life or failing to save it. Small fires will develop into large fires and increase the risk to firefighters there to deal with them."**
– Councillor Brian Selby, chairman of the fire authority’s Audit Committee
“Our success has been built on good, old-fashioned commitments to public service and prudent financial management,” he added. “The draft fire cover proposals we released for public consultation earlier this month recognise that we may have to tighten our belts well into the 2020s but we will attempt to do so whilst being open and honest about the possible implications and try to work with our communities to find solutions which are both safe and sustainable."