Boris Johnson’s proposed cuts to frontline fire services across London were opened to public consultation today.
Plans include the closure of fire stations in Hackney, Tower Hamlets and Lewisham, and are parts of the mayor’s draft budget, which was approved at the London Assembly yesterday.
Navin Shah, Labour’s London Assembly fire spokesperson said: “There is now time to consult with people across our city and see what they think about Boris Johnson’s plans to cut 12 fire stations, 18 fire engines and 520 firefighters.”
This means that Bow, Kingsland, Downham and New Cross fire stations will not close for at least another financial year.
Tower Hamlets Labour councillor Abdal Ullah said: “This is a victory for all the Tower Hamlets residents who oppose these cuts. We have been warning Boris Johnson his plans would put lives in danger.”
The news followed an eventful meeting of the London Assembly yesterday at City Hall where the Mayor branded members of the opposition “great, supine, protoplasmic invertebrate jellies”.
The assembly voted to pass the mayor’s £16.5 billion draft budget without amendments despite opposition calls for him to reconsider his proposals.
Opponents said Johnson’s plan to reduce council tax by £3.64 per year for the average household will necessitate cuts of £45 million to the city’s fire and police services.
The mayor rejected calls for him to rethink proposals, stating that alternative suggestions were irresponsible and politically motivated, noting that his plans were based on the professional advice of senior fire officials.
Mark Andrews, London Fire Brigade’s Lewisham borough commander said: “All the closures would mean is that the nearest fire station is a bit further away and response times would be unlikely to be affected.”
“At the moment we are working within the context of significant and unprecedented cuts that affect the whole public sector. Our service has always had to work within a specific cost envelope and we will continue to provide an excellent service and put the safety of the public first.”
However, Shah has called the mayor’s plans “reckless” and says they will “jeopardise the long-term safety of Londoners”.
Paul Embery of the Fire Brigades Union said: “These cuts represent the biggest threat to the ability of the London Fire Brigade to function since the days of the Blitz. They would mean nearly five million Londoners waiting longer for a fire engine – and that will place people in serious danger.”
As Ullah stated, this delay is only a “temporary reprieve” from the Mayor’s planned cuts, and residents can use this consultation period to make their voices heard.
Councillor Terry Stacy, a member of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority said: “It is now up to Londoners – they must tell Boris Johnson how strongly they want his cuts and closures scrapped.”