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Station closure proposals “biggest threat” to London Fire Brigade since Second World War, says union

Westminster station is among the fire stations proposed for closure by London Fire Brigade. Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire Westminster station is among the fire stations proposed for closure by London Fire Brigade. Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Friday, January 11, 2013
3:59 PM

Proposals to shut 12 fire stations in London and axe around 520 jobs have been condemned by politicians, and have been described as the “biggest threat” to the ability of London Fire Brigade to “function since the Second World War”.

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This afternoon London Fire Brigade announced it was recommending the closure of 12 stations, and the reduction from two fire engines to one at seven stations.

The plans, if approved, will result in the loss of around 520 front line firefighter jobs.

London Fire Brigade hopes to avoid compulsory redundancies, saying that the posts it is cutting will be through retirement or as people naturally leave, and through a recruitment freeze.

The Fire Brigades Union’s (FBU) regional secretary for London, Paul Embery, said: “These proposed cuts are dangerous and wrong. If they are implemented, they will undoubtedly jeopardise the safety of Londoners and firefighters alike.

“The London Fire Brigade now faces perhaps the biggest threat to its ability to function since the Second World War.

“The mayor has argued that response times will not be affected by these cuts. Aside from the fact that he has provided little supporting evidence for this claim, anyone who knows anything about firefighting knows that it isn’t just about the speed of response.

“The weight of response, ensuring that you have adequate resources to deal with developing and large-scale incidents, is just as crucial. These cuts would deplete the service and impair its ability to respond quickly and effectively to serious incidents.

“All around the country, chief fire officers are beginning to warn publicly of the danger of catastrophic cuts. Nowhere will those cuts be felt more acutely than in the capital.

“It is intolerable that Londoners’ safety is being compromised because of crude economic considerations. These reckless cuts will endanger Londoners, and we will campaign vigorously against them.”

Stations proposed for closure are Belsize, Bow, Clapham, Clerkenwell, Downham, Kingsland, Knightsbridge, New Cross, Silvertown, Southwark, Westminster and Woolwich.

Labour’s London Assembly fire spokesman Navin Shah said: “London’s fire brigade is facing a crisis. Today we found out we will lose 12 fire stations, 18 fire engines and 400 firefighters. This will reduce fire cover in London, these cuts will put the safety and security of Londoners at risk.

“How can cutting 12 of our fire stations be in the best interests of Londoners?”

The fire service is due to meet with representatives of the FBU next week to discuss the plans.

Ron Dobson, Commissioner of the London Fire Brigade, said the proposals would not affect response times and would in fact help more boroughs to achieve the target of six minutes for the first engine and eight minutes for the second.

Mr Dobson said he also wanted to recover some costs, such as charging for attending lift failures or false alarms.

He said: “Having spent 33 years as a firefighter serving the capital, I know how important it is to respond to incidents as quickly as possible and I have every intention of maintaining our current response time targets for first and second fire engines.

“With all the work we do to prevent fires happening, and response times that are still amongst the best in the country, I am confident these savings can be made while keeping London safe.”

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