London fire station closures and 520 job cuts proposed
- 11 January 2013
- From the section London
Plans to close 12 fire stations in London, with the loss of 520 jobs, have been unveiled.
The proposals, announced by London Fire Commissioner Ron Dobson, are part of plans to save £45m over the next two years.
The stations include Belsize in Camden, Bow in Tower Hamlets and Westminster. Mr Dobson said about 10% of frontline firefighter posts would be axed.
The Fire Brigades Union said the proposals were "dangerous and wrong".
Mr Dobson said he hoped to avoid compulsory redundancies.
The number of fire stations in London would be reduced to 100 under the proposals, which are due to go before the fire authority for a vote on 21 January.
Mr Dobson said he hoped firefighters would not take industrial action over the planned cuts and stressed the authority had to make savings because of reductions to its budget.
Chelsea, Chingford, Hayes, Leyton, Leytonstone, Peckham, Whitechapel would lose one of their two fire engines according to the plans, which would make total savings worth £28.8m.
Hendon, Orpington, Stanmore and Twickenham would go from having one fire engine to two.
Mr Dobson said: "Like virtually every other public service, the brigade needs to make savings.
"In the last four years, we have cut £52m without reducing frontline services.
"Additional savings cannot be found without making significant changes to how we keep London safe."
He said demand for the fire service had changed dramatically in the past 10 years and it was time to reflect that in how fire stations, engines and staff were organised.
The brigade said it attended half as many fires compared with a decade ago, a third fewer house fires than a decade ago and almost a third fewer incidents altogether.
"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," Mr Dobson said.
"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."
Paul Embery, the Fire Brigades Union's regional secretary for London, 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."
The Green Party said as well as closing 12 fire stations, the proposals included redundancy for 400 fire fighters and 100 civilian staff.
London Assembly Green Party Member Darren Johnson said the public were "desperately worried" about the proposed closures.
"Rather than cutting council tax the mayor should be providing the funding to keep these fire stations open," he said.
Navin Shah, Labour London Assembly Fire spokesman, called the cuts "truly reckless".
He said the cuts would "put the safety and security of Londoners at risk".
Stephen Knight, Liberal Democrat London Assembly Member said: "These cuts being forced on London's fire brigade by Boris Johnson will make London less safe and are unnecessary."
The fire brigade said it was anticipated that firefighter numbers would reduce by about 520 as people retired or left and through a recruitment freeze.
A spokesman for London mayor Boris Johnson said: "These proposals may mean a slightly smaller estate, but they also include bigger, more efficient and well-equipped modern stations.
"Whilst it's right that tough decisions have to be made in times of economic uncertainty, the mayor is resolute that any agreed proposals will not reduce the capital's fire cover and target response times will be protected."