Boris needs to come clean over fire cuts

Navin Shah AM, Labour’s City Hall fire spokesman, asks Mayor of London Boris Johnson to come clean on the extent of fire service cuts.


By Navin Shah AM, Labour’s City Hall fire spokesman and lead member on the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority

The London Fire Brigade (LFB) is, regrettably, not a priority for the Mayor of London. In 2008 the Mayor pledged to protect fire cover, but this year he quietly dropped this promise from his 2012 manifesto.

The LFB is a valued and highly regarded institution; its staff should be acknowledged for the life-saving work they do for all Londoners. Yet the Mayor and the government treat the brigade like the police’s poor cousin.

The LFB is facing swinging cuts as the government’s austerity drive starts to hit vital front line services. This year, its budget has been cut by £29.5million and by a further £35.3million next year, in total £65million.

This follows the government cutting the fire budget by 25% – even deeper than the 20% cut to the police’s budget.

At the moment London has 112 fire stations; 50 of these have two fire engines. There are real concerns this level of fire-cover will be greatly reduced to deal with the huge cuts from the government.

To make matters worse, the Mayor and his former fire deputy – Brian Coleman – raided the Fire Authorities’ formerly healthy reserves, moving £50 million to the police budget. He has robbed Peter to pay Paul. This has left the Fire Authority with nowhere else to turn to absorb these cuts.

The Mayor and his Conservative colleagues in government are cutting back our frontline services. All of these problems come back to the government cutting too far, too fast. They are hitting frontline services and putting public safety at risk. They need to reconsider these dangerous plans.

If stations are at risk we need to know which ones. If fire engines are going to be cut, we need to know how many. This isn’t just an academic debate about numbers. If there aren’t enough fire engines in London then they will not get to incidents on time. As we all know, time is a crucial factor in saving people’s lives. The Mayor needs to come clean on his cuts to the London Fire Brigade.

Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.