Happy New Year – my column in the Morley Observer & Advertiser

As I write, everyone is dashing around making the final preparations for Christmas. Trees are decorated and final gifts are frantically being bought. But as you read this the turkey will have been eaten and the kids may already be getting tired of their new toys.

But for those, like me, who are usually fortunate enough to have a few days off over Christmas, spare a thought for those who will work the Christmas holidays. Those who are running our hospitals, those who’ll be calling in on our elderly to ensure they’ve had a hot meal and someone to talk to on Christmas Day. And of course our police officers and fire fighters.

In this column, I’ve written about the police and fire services a great deal this year. Both services have been up against it, facing big cuts in their budgets that, in my view, have gone too far, too fast. Both services include hard working men and women who put their lives on the line to keep us all safe.

For the police this year, despite promises that cuts in budgets wouldn’t affect the front line, police station helpdesk here in Morley was to be closed in the evenings and at weekends. After a strong campaign, in which over a thousand people sent me their views, it is great that regional police chiefs and the town council have found some extra resources to keep it open.

But our fire station is still under threat. There was encouraging news last week from West Yorkshire Fire Service that Morley Fire Station would stay put. This followed the consultation in which I, and others, raised serious concerns about the impact on public safety of moving the station. But as always, the devil is in the detail. The fine print of the proposals, making the station staffed during the day only (with fire fighters on call overnight), would lead to an even bigger increase in response times. That’s not good enough. Public safety has to come first.

What’s also unclear to me is, why aren’t West Yorkshire Fire Service fighting unfair cuts more publicly? Why, for example, should our service here in West Yorkshire be taking a big cut in budget when other areas (North Yorkshire, Wiltshire and Oxfordshire for example) are actually seeing their budgets increase?

Early in the new year I’ll be meeting again with fire chiefs to ask them to look again at the proposals so people in my constituency can feel safe knowing that their fire services will be there if they need them. We have to keep up the pressure.

Happy New Year for 2013.

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Posted December 26th, 2012 by Ed