Obviously over the coming three months of community consultation it is going to be vital for members of the public and other interested parties to have access to information regarding the proposed closures of fire stations in West Yorkshire. We are also aiming to provide information regarding other organisations and how they are fighting these proposed cuts in provision.
Below is a letter sent to all West Yorkshire Fire Authority Members by David Williams the Brigade Secretary (elect) of the Fire Brigades Union.
Fire service Head Quarters
3 September 2012
Dear Fire `Authority Member,
At the Fire Authority meeting to be held on Friday 7 September 2012, you will be asked by the Chief Fire Officer to support his IRMP proposals and that they should now go out for public consultation. These proposals, that in the CFO’s opinion, will best prepare the service to see them through to 2020 with the expected budget cuts that may come.
The Fire Brigades Union, the voice of the front line firefighters, who attend emergency incidents daily, do not agree with the view of the CFO and that his proposals would place the service in the best position up until 2020 if they are implemented. In fact, we feel that these proposals will not only put the members of the communities at a much greater risk of death or injury, but will also place firefighters, who will be responding to their emergencies, at a far greater risk as well.
The local council tax payers already pay for the service they receive from WYFR by way of their council tax, so why should they be expected to pay the same, or in fact pay more should the precept be increased in future years, for a far worse service then they currently receive? These are the people who elect their councillors to represent their best interests and by not supporting these savage cuts to their fire & rescue service, you will be doing just that.
It is claimed that these proposals will increase the response times in 23 higher risk electoral wards, but what about the rest of the authority area that will receive a far worse level of service delivery? The proposals also fail to mention that this improvement in response to these 23 wards will be dependent on the fire appliances actually being in their new fire station buildings. You have to ask the question - what is the chance of that being the case when, the fewer fire appliances that are left are now covering an area twice the size and answering fire calls that used to be shared between two fire stations. How on earth can that even try to be dressed up in any shape or form as an improvement of service delivery. The distance from one edge of a stations area to the opposite side has dramatically increased, so doesn’t need a genius to work out that response times will always be dependent on where the appliance actually is, whether it be carrying out community safety or returning from a previous incident.
We do not dispute that accidental fire deaths and injuries have decreased in recent years and that is greatly down to the community safety work that has been undertaken in recent years by the employees of WYFR, however, the community safety service provision has also been cut with reduced budgets, a point raised at the recent select committee hearing by ACO Redfearn, where he basically said that these proposed budget cuts would cost lives in the long term. What you need to realise is that with a reduction in community safety provision, be it by the community safety teams or by fewer operational firefighters being available to carry out this work, that it may result in an increase in primary and secondary fires and as such the Fire Authority may then find itself with an increased requirement in its intervention resources i.e. Fire stations, fire appliances and firefighters.
Recently, in news coverage of the latest proposed cuts it was stated that West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service was one of the best and most highly regarded fire & rescue services in the country, an honour that we should be truly proud of. But importantly, they went on to add, that should the proposed cuts go ahead this may not be the case in the future. A view that we reluctantly share, as we believe we would not have the resources or frontline firefighters to deal with emergency incidents as effectively as we do now.
Nationally the FBU have been campaigning to raise awareness of the number of firefighters killed whilst on duty following a massive increase in their numbers, thankfully none of these have been in
West Yorkshire. However, if the proposed cuts go ahead, the Fire Brigades Union feel that with less fire appliances, less firefighters and longer to arrive at incidents then it is only a matter of time before a firefigher is seriously injured or killed in West Yorkshire. By taking longer to arrive at incidents, emergency incidents will deteriorate, fires will have time to intensify and should rescues be required then crews will be placed in the moral dilemma of whether to act to save a life, they will enter burning buildings when in reality to ensure their own safety they should not.
The Fire Brigades Union urge you to reject these proposals at the authority meeting on 7th September and jointly with us, we campaign together to get adequate funding for West Yorkshire and the fire service in general to stop these cuts being made to the emergency front line services and give the people of West Yorkshire the best fire and rescue service in the country.
Brigade Secretary Elect
If you wish to contact the Fire Brigades Union directly their website and details are available here !