TWO minutes and 37 seconds - that’s how much longer it would take firefighters to reach certain areas of Morley should the town’s fire station close and be moved out of the area.
Figures showing the impact on response times were released by the West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service last week as plans to close the Corporation Street station were officially put out to public consultation.
Morley South - which includes the town centre - would see the highest impact on response times, the two minutes, 37 second response time putting it in the ‘very high risk’ category .
Morley North, which takes in Drighlington and Gildersome, would see a one minute, 25 second increase while Ardsley and Robin Hood would have an increase of one minute, seven seconds.
The Fire Brigade Union (FBU) have branded the proposals “irresponsible beyond belief” and said the authority should have worked with the union to get a better deal out of the government before announcing their plans.
David Williams, FBU brigade secretary, said: “It’s disappointing. We’re talking about five or six years down the line here, and we asked if the authority could delay the announcement because we don’t know what we are going to get yet with regards to the grant settlement.
“But now that the authority has agreed to these proposals there’s no reason for the government to give any more money.
“The public in West Yorkshire and members in the service will be put at greater risk now, there’s no question about it.”
But Chief Fire Officer Simon Pilling insisted the proposals would not threaten people’s safety.
He said the success of the fire service over the last 20 years had allowed for the service to be reshaped, and said the plans would improve response times in some of the areas at highest risk of fire.
He said: “We’re going to lose up to £30m of our budget by 2020, and that cost can’t just go onto the council tax payer.
“Without the success we’ve had I would be very nervous making these proposals, but this success without a shadow of a doubt enables me to look at emergency provision for the next 30 or 40 years.”
Morley’s MP, Ed Balls said, he had already met with regional fire chiefs to raise his concerns about the impact the closure would have on public safety.
“We must keep a fire station for Morley that can safely access a fire wherever it might occur. In the coming weeks I want to know what local people think so I can respond to the consultation.
“I want to see full details of the proposed changes and the impact changes could have on response times and public safety for towns across my constituency of Morley and Outwood. After my meeting with the Chief Fire Officer I’ll be raising concerns formally in writing. Anyone who has their own views should not hesitate to get in touch with me at my office in Morley.”
Morley South councillor Neil Dawson, who is Community Safety Champion for the Outer South Area Committee that covers Morley, said he had grave concerns about the future of the fire station.
“I want to ensure that homes and business in Morley continue to have the highest level of fire protection cover that is possible.
“I have had already had an initial meeting with the Chief Fire Officer and some of his senior team where we had a frank exchange of views on the proposals.
“However this is a draft proposal and it is important that people make their views known. The consultation will last for 12 weeks and this will allow people time to get their views across. I’ll be using the time to get the best long-term solution so we can protect Morley’s fire service.”
Kirklees 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 November 30 we are engaged in a listening exercise and nothing more,” he said.
“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 December 21.”
A special hotline is being set up to guide people through the consultation process which people can call on 01274 655717.
Formal representation must be sent in writing to Hannah Stoneman, Consultation Co-ordinator, West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Authority, Oakroyd Hall, Bradford Road, Birkenshaw BD11 2DY, or by e-mail to email@example.com, by November 30.