PLANS to site a new fire station for Morley and Hunslet on the congested Dewsbury Road near the White Rose Centre have been criticised by residents, firefighters and councillors.
Senior fire officers speaking at a meeting in Morley Town Hall on Monday night confirmed they are looking at sites around the White Rose Centre when fire stations at Hunslet and Morley are closed and merged.
The proposals were unveiled last month following the announcement of government cuts to the West Yorkshire Fire Service funding of £6m in the next two years alone, with further cuts expected.
At the public meeting called by Coun Robert Finnigan, Leeds District Commander Nick Smith said that although no specific sites had been chosen, they were looking for one on Dewsbury Road.
The idea was criticised by Coun Terry Grayshon who said traffic in the area was too congested.
He added that he trusted the judgement and experience of firefighter Jason Hutchinson over the projections and models created by the team behind the new proposals.
Mr Hutchinson, the Fire Brigade Union (FBU) branch secretary at Morley and a firefighter with 23 years experience, told the meeting: “You cannot computer model a frozen February day on the M62 when you have a 24-car pile up.”
He added that estimated response times should be treated with caution as no timed drives had yet been undertaken from the new site and that Dewsbury Road is known for its traffic jams.
He added that as an experienced firefighter he wanted to get to any fire within five minutes and no more.
Nick Smith had earlier told the meeting that although the change of location would result in longer response times they were, at under eight minutes, still well within force targets.
His colleague Mick Smith, area manager operations response, said the service was facing “unprecedented” funding cuts on a scale never seen before and they had to come up with a workable plan to ensure the service continues.
He said: “With the money we have got and the staff we have left we need to provide the best possible service for West Yorkshire and we think the proposals we have put forward will provide the best service we can.
“It won’t be the service we had but it will still be a very good service.”
David Williams, the branch secretary for the Fire Brigades Union in West Yorkshire, warned however that cuts would mean more fire deaths.
“If you cut the service fire deaths will increase, that is where we are in reality, “ he said
“What people don’t realise is that nearly as many people die in house fires with a working fire detector as houses without.
“If you cannot make your escape, if you are infirm, disabled, had a few beers or can’t hear the alarm, you are not going to get out of that house fire and the only way you are going to get out is by us getting the fire engine to you quickly.”
“The FBU have campaigned for years that cuts cost lives what I am asking this council is to oppose these cuts that have been proposed and demand a decent settlement from government for a decent fire service.”
That call was taken up by Coun Neil Dawson who said it was time to join the TUC and FBU in lobbying the government and to write to MPs and ministers.
Coun Robert Finnigan asked for the Labour Party to commit to reversing the cuts in the future.
The West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service is holding a public consultation on the changes that will run until November 30.
More details can be found on their website www.westyorksfire.gov.uk and a special hotline on 01274 655717 has been set up to guide people through the consultation process.
Formal representations 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
A final decision on the closure of Morley Station, among others, will be made on December 21 after the full extent of the proposed cuts is known.