MPs urge Boris to reconsider £65m cut to fire service

The proposed £65m cuts to London’s fire services are “irresponsible,” Rushanara Ali Labour MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, has told the House of Commons.

Ali spoke in a debate in the House last Friday about reductions of funding in fire services in London.

The debate was prompted by plans set out by London Mayor, Boris Johnson, to cut the London fire service by £65m over two years.

Ali said: “I am shocked at the government and the London Mayor’s apparent willingness to take such risks with the safety of my constituents and other parts of the borough and across London.”

“Tower Hamlets has the highest rates of fire call outs in the whole of London but Boris Johnson thinks stripping our borough of a third of its fire stations is a sensible idea.”

Labour MP for Brent North, Barry Gardiner also reconsideration of the proposals.

The changing demands made on London’s fire service were detailed in a leaked document which earmarked the closure of 17 stations across London.

Gardiner said the 17 stations would only save £30m out of the £65m target and therefore 68 out of the 113 stations have the “threat of closure still hanging over them.”

Tower Hamlets Labour group sent a letter to the Mayor of London expressing concern over the: “Threat and potential loss of life” the cuts could bring to the borough’s fire stations.

The letter argues that closures would have a “significant impact on Tower Hamlets’ ability to deal with major incidents”.

It was signed by Tower Hamlets MPs Ali and Jim Fitzpatrick, Tower Hamlets Labour Group Leader Councillor Joshua Peck and Assembly Member John Biggs.

Hackney Labour Group has put forward an emergency notion at Hackney Council condemning the plans, which would see the borough’s Kingsland fire station closed.

Gardner said: “This is unacceptable.”

Minister of Communities and Local Government, Mark Prisk said: “Demands on the fire services are changing and that is why we believe London’s fire service needs to respond as well.”

He also said the proposals will be subject to public consultation: “People will have the opportunity to have their voices heard.”

Prior to the debate Gardiner met with fire officers from Wembley Fire and Rescue station. One officer told Gardiner: “The public need to know it is going to take us longer to pull them out of a burning building.”

In the debate, Gardiner accused the Mayor of postponing the debate with the London assembly fire members from November 22 to December 20 to “Avoid any scrutiny and effectively bury the announcement in the Christmas holiday season.”

The minister replied: “I do strongly reject the idea there’s a cynical or underhand approach to the way [Boris Johnson] is dealing with this.”

The stations listed in the leaked document as earmarked for closure are: Acton, Belsize, Bow, Clapham, Clerkenwell, Downham, Islington, Kensington, Kingsland, Knightsbridge, New Cross, Peckham, Silvertown, Southwark, Westminster, Whitechapel and Woolwich.

The proposal will be discussed at a meeting with the London fire authority on December 20.

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