Fewer than one in five of the public support plans to cut 13 London fire engines, according to the results of an official London Fire Brigade public consultation. Despite the lack of public support for the plans, the London Fire Brigade, is pushing ahead with plans to axe the 13 fire engines after Mayor Boris Johnson ordered them to make £11.5m in cuts in 2016/17. The consultation results come only two weeks after the Mayor was criticised for describing the lifesaving fire engines as “pointless vehicles.”
The consultation results published yesterday showed that 70% of the 1,478 respondents supported fully funded alternative proposals (Option A) put forward by my colleague Andrew Dismore AM, which would retain the 13 fire engines and make the required savings by changing the way some engines are crewed, allowing one crew to run different types of fire appliance to ensure all of the Fire Brigade’s current engines are able to stay in service. Only 18% of respondents supported Option B which would see the 13 fire engines scrapped.
It’s no surprise that Londoners don’t want to see more fire engines axed given that the last time Boris Johnson cut the fire service, closing ten fire stations and scrapping 14 fire engines, the result was a significant increase in the time it takes engines to reach fires.
Far from being the ‘pointless vehicles’ the Mayor describes, these fire engines and their crews save lives. Scrapping them would unnecessarily increase the risk to Londoners.
The results of the consultation will be considered at next Wednesday’s meeting (17th Feb) of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority (LFEPA), although it is feared that irrespective of the outcome, the Mayor of London could issue a legally binding Mayoral Direction to LFEPA members ordering them to axe the fire engines.
In January 2012 the Mayor’s last round of cuts to the Fire Brigade saw him order the closure of 10 fire stations with the loss of 14 fire engines. Following the closures London saw a significant increase in response times with rises in 401 of London’s 654 wards when compared with the previous year.
With 70% of Londoners against these plans, and with strong and fully costed alternatives on the table, it is time the Mayor listened to what Londoners are telling him and backed down from this plan to axe yet more fire engines.