Fire Authority Rejects Closure Plan

Controversial plans to close fire stations and cut hundreds of firefighters' jobs in London were rejected again by the capital's fire authority today, leaving the decision with Mayor Boris Johnson.

Hundreds of firefighters protested outside the meeting, which failed to accept the closure of 10 fire stations and the loss of 14 fire engines and 552 jobs to make savings of £28.8 million over the next two years.

The plan was revised following public consultations, with two stations removed from the closure proposals.

London fire commissioner Ron Dobson said:

"We have to acknowledge that the number of fires we attend has gone down by half in the last 10 years, and our latest figures show that fires continued to fall at the same rate last year.

"Under my revised proposals, response times in London will remain amongst the very best of any emergency service in the UK and firefighters will continue to carry out community safety work to prevent fires at the same level as they do now."

Mr Dobson told the meeting it was the best plan given the current financial constraints.

But Labour member Navin Shah said thousands of people had signed petitions against station closures or attended meetings in an "unprecedented" show of opposition.

"This is a landslide message from the public," he said.

"Let the Mayor play with fire - we are not prepared to sign up to this reckless plan."

Some firefighters staged a brief sit-down protest on London Bridge before the meeting started.

A survey of 1,500 Londoners for the Fire Brigades Union found that seven out of 10 believed the cuts would put public safety at risk.

General secretary Matt Wrack said:

"Government cuts are putting lives at risk across the country, but Londoners are particularly at threat because of the mayor's own attacks on the capital's fire service.

"In a fire, every second counts.

"These cuts plans ignore that crucial fact.

"The cuts are wrong, dangerous and massively unpopular among the public, and even Boris Johnson's Conservative support base.

"It's time for common sense and democracy to prevail and for public safety to be put first.

"These cuts must be stopped."

Liberal Democrat member Stephen Knight said:

"These savage cuts in London's fire service are being driven solely by the Mayor's obsession with a 7p cut in the council tax.

"The ball is now back in Boris Johnson's court.

"Even at this late hour, he should listen to Londoners and reverse these dangerous cuts which if implemented will drive up response times across large parts of London."

Opponents of the plans now expect Mr Johnson to implement the cuts.