Mayor Boris Johnson has overruled the governing body of the London Fire Brigade by initiating plans to close 10 fire stations across the capital including three in the Eastlondonlines region – Bow, Downham and Kingsland.
The London Fire Authority voted to keep the fire stations open, however, following a high profile Labour led campaign and public consultation, the mayor had the final say.
Johnson has forced though the controversial closures and the plans will result in the loss of 552 fire fighter jobs and a reduction in the number of engines per station across London. Whitechapel fire station is set to lose one of its two fire engines, and the number of engines responding to emergencies in London will be cut by 14 in total and minimum crewing levels on rescue units will be reduced from five to four.
Members of London’s Fire Authority voted against the Fifth London Safety Plan, that London Fire Commissioner Ron Dobson presented at a meeting with the London Fire & Emergency Planning Authority (LFEPA) on July 18.
The plans will save £28.8m and Johnson has demanded the plans be implemented by September 16, ignoring objection from the LFEPA.
Johnson said: “Frontline savings can be made without affecting public safety and I wish to direct the LFEPA to adopt and publish the final plan in the form put forward by the Commissioner and to authorise the Commissioner to commence implementation.”
Labour has challenged Johnson saying the cuts will harm response times and put lives at risk. Labour’s Spokesperson for Community Safety, Councillor Mizan Chaudhury, said: “Closing Bow fire station and halving the number of engines at Whitechapel will leave thousands of residents waiting longer than is safe and is totally reckless.”
London Fire Brigade Union (FBU) said the Mayor’s use of his executive powers to force though controversial closures was an insult to democracy. Ian Leahair, FBU executive member for London, said: “The cuts are dangerous and wrong, and this is devastating news for Londoners, with lives across the capital being put at risk by the mayor’s reckless cuts.”
A survey conducted for the FBU, that approached 1,500 Londoners, found 70% believed the cuts would put public safety at risk.
London Fire Commissioner Ron Dobson said: “We have to acknowledge that the number of fires we attend has gone down by half in the last 10 years, and our latest figures show that fires continued to fall at the same as rate last year.
London Fire Brigade presented an analysis on the impacts of the Fifth London Safety Plan but added no further comment.