Firefighters hold day of action against proposed staff cuts and station closures across London

Fire Brigade Union protesters. Pic: Duncan Cumming

Fire Brigade Union protesters. Pic: Duncan Cumming

Firefighters held a day of action on March 16, opposing planned cuts which would see the loss of 500 frontline staff across London.

The Fire Brigades Union organised the day against plans which are predicted to leave 4.7 million Londoners waiting longer for a fire engine. The cuts would also lead to the closure of Bow station in Tower Hamlets, Kingsland station in Hackney, and Downham and New Cross stations in Lewisham. The number of fire engines at Whitechapel station would be halved.

Paul Embery, FBU regional secretary for London said: “These cuts are dangerous and wrong. No one wants them, apart from Boris Johnson. Public safety is playing second fiddle to a crude economic ideology, and that is inexcusable.”

The FBU called on- and off-duty firefighters to go out into their local community to show their support.

Across London, firefighters handed out leaflets, explained how the proposals threaten public safety and collected signatures for a petition against them.

The staff of Clapham fire station, which is cited for closure as part of the cuts, also organised a public march from Clapham Common.

Embery said: “Firefighters know better than anyone the importance of getting a fire engine to an emergency quickly. That’s why they will be out in their hundreds campaigning against the cuts.”

But the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority has condemned the action, and London Fire Commissioner Rob Dobson told the BBC that the FBU’s attempt to divert on-duty firefighters away from their work was “irresponsible”.

Ahead of the action, staff across London received a circular email from Dobson which warned: “Such trade union activity by on-duty staff is unauthorised and on-duty staff are not permitted to take part.”

The planned cuts hope to save £29 million over two years, through the closure of 12 fire stations and removal of 18 fire engines and 500 firefighters from the front line.

The plans are subject to a 12-week public consultation period which began on March 4.

Embery said: “Fire stations that have stood protecting Londoners for generations are under great threat. We hope the public will support our campaign to prevent their closure.”

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