Fire brigade response times increasing says London Assembly despite promises services will not decline

London Fire Brigade. Pic: Alex Drennan

London Fire Brigade. Pic: Alex Drennan

Fire brigade response times are increasing in Croydon, Hackney, Lewisham and Tower Hamlets, despite promises that services would not decline following station closures in January.

Data published by the London Assembly has shown that the average first response time to fires in many east London boroughs fall outside the target set by the London Fire Brigade.

The LFB aims to reach fires within six minutes, with a second engine arriving within eight.

Croydon is particularly affected by slow response times. Fire brigades in 12 of Croydon’s 24 wards have seen an increase in first-response times, with 11 over the LFB target.

While Croydon fares the worst, brigades in other boroughs are also struggling to attend call-outs quickly. Five wards in Lewisham recorded that, on average, brigades are failing to respond within six minutes, three in Hackney and one in Tower Hamlets.

Table for London Fire Brigade response Times. Pic: Hannah Boland

Table for London Fire Brigade response Times. Pic: Hannah Boland

Meg Hillier, MP for Hackney South and Shoreditch, said: “We predicted this would be the case when Kingsland fire station closed. London Fire Brigade came up with figures for response which were not credible – based on late night response and not times that took account of heavy congestion at certain times of the day. I am dismayed that we have been proved right.”

The London Labour Assembly, who compiled the comparative data of response times between 2012-2013 and January-August 2014, attributed the rise to changes introduced by Boris Johnson earlier this year.

John Biggs, London Labour Assembly Member, said: “As a result of [Johnson’s] decision to close ten fire stations and with the removal of a further 13 fire engines, even when they are not needed for strike cover, we have seen response times rise in over half of the capital’s wards.”

The closures, implemented in a bid to save £29m, led to 550 fire fighters losing their jobs. The stations closed were Belsize, Bow, Clerkenwell, Downham, Kingsland, Knightsbridge, Silvertown, Southwark, Westminster and Woolwich.

James Cleverly, chairman of the London’s fire authority, had promised response times would not be compromised by the cuts, saying: “Londoners will continue to receive one of the fastest emergency response times in the world from the London Fire Brigade. If you dial 999 and need a fire engine, we still aim to have one with you within six minutes.”

Within all London boroughs, the report shows 371 out of 649 wards recording higher response times. The average first response time of London brigades has risen from 5:18 to 5:30 minutes.

In response to the figures, the LFB said: “Between January and August, London-wide attendance times are on target and London Fire Brigade continues to provide the fastest emergency service response in the capital.”

They added that 12 of the 24 wards in Croydon also had decreased response times.

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