Fire stations could merge in shake-up

WHEN TWO BECOME ONE: Dewsbury fire station, pictured above, could be merged into Mirfield's station. (d31081106)
WHEN TWO BECOME ONE: Dewsbury fire station, pictured above, could be merged into Mirfield's station. (d31081106)

DEWSBURY fire station looks set to close under a major plan to change the way the service operates.

The Dewsbury and Batley stations could be replaced by one base in Batley Carr.

Mirfield station would stay open under the proposals announced this week.

The moves are part of a major shake-up which will also see 102 front-line jobs go throughout West Yorkshire as the fire service struggles to make savings of more than £4m a year.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) was meeting yesterday to consider its response.

But an official said the moves would be opposed and that they ‘undermine and erode delivery of emergency services.’

Chief fire officer Simon Pilling outlined his plans on Tuesday, but no details will be revealed until a meeting of the fire and rescue authority next Friday. However, it is known that 102 full-time firefighter posts will go – all through natural wastage.

Mr Pilling said fire safety work had driven down deaths and injuries to an all-time low, leaving some stations half as busy as they were a few years ago.

But the brigade basically still provides the same level of cover, from the same number of stations as it did when the service was formed in 1974.

Mr Pilling said that while piecemeal change had triggered economies and boosted effectiveness, the prospect of losing £18m in government grants over the next four years meant the pace of change had to speed up.

“The emergency cover review I ordered was mainly focused on life risk, making sure we can direct resources where they are needed most,” he said.

Five new stations are planned across West Yorkshire to replace 10 current stations.

“Put simply, fewer appliances at optimum sites will enable the brigade to maintain excellent fire cover while saving more than £4m a year in running costs,” said Mr Pilling.

The changes would take place between 2012 and 2017. Full public consultation will be needed and if the draft is approved, the authority will reconsider Mr Pilling’s plan on December 16.

Mirfield councillor Martyn Bolt said he had been assured that the town’s station was not only not being considered for closure, but would be a far more strategic base in future if the plans are approved.

Mark Wilson, secretary of West Yorkshire FBU, said: “It is difficult to comment at the moment as we have a meeting on Thursday at which the issue will be discussed.

“But we do feel this plan undermines or erodes delivery of fire and emergency cover to the people of West Yorkshire.

“We will be seeking to oppose this and advise others who wish to oppose it, such as community groups.”