Plans To Axe Fire Stations Rejected

Controversial plans to close 12 fire stations in London with the loss of 520 jobs have been rejected by the capital's fire authority.

After a fierce debate over proposals aimed at saving £45 million, the authority narrowly decided to hold a public consultation on future plans, without involving closures.

But stations ARE still at risk, as London Mayor Boris Johnson has ultimate control over how savings are made.

Hundreds of firefighters staged a noisy protest outside the meeting on Monday 21st January, amid warnings that industrial action had not been ruled out if the closures went ahead.

London fire commissioner Ron Dobson proposed cutting around 10% of frontline firefighter posts, adding that he hoped to avoid compulsory redundancies.

The number of fire stations would be reduced to 100 under the proposals.

He said the number of fire incidents in London was down by a third in the past decade, with fire appliances only used 7% of the time.

A total of 24 fire stations dealt with two or fewer incidents a day, while the average firefighter was called out to 195 incidents a year, with only 48 of those involving fires, he said.

The proposed cuts were a "measured" response to the economic challenge the authority faced, and should be consulted on before a final decision in June, said the commissioner.

Labour member Andrew Dismore said it was "outrageous" that members were being asked to back cuts.

He pointed out that fire engines first on the scene at last week's helicopter accident in Vauxhall and a train fire incident at Victoria railway station were from stations on the closure list.

Conservative member Susan Hall said almost half of calls in the capital were false alarms and maintained that many firefighters were concerned they were not getting enough on-the-job training.

The fire brigade was "well and truly over-subscribed" with firefighters, she said.

The authority voted by 9-8 in favour of a Labour amendment deleting any references to station closures, appliance reductions and job losses in a future public consultation.

FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said thousands of firefighters' jobs were under threat across the country with the possible closure of up to 70 fire stations because of spending cuts.

"These are horrific attacks on the London fire brigade and are part of a wider onslaught against the fire service as a result of the Government's austerity measures. We will fight these cuts every step of the way."

The Mayor of London Boris Johnson said:

"LFEPA (the fire authority) has a responsibility to deliver a balanced budget based on sensible plans for fire safety provision in the capital. I am of course always willing to listen to submissions but it's quite clear today's decision offers nothing positive, indeed it demonstrates a complete lack of leadership.

"This must and will be about improving London's fire service, equipping the brigade for the challenges of 21st century firefighting, and maintaining our exceptional response times across both inner and outer London. We secured a better than expected financial settlement for LFEPA - the best of any similar authority in England - and history shows the difficulties organisations get into when they don't face up to their financial responsibilities. This consultation will continue as planned. I will be issuing a Mayoral directive to ensure it does."

Terry Stacy, the leader of the Liberal Democrat group on the fire authority, said:

"Round one has gone to those who are putting the safety of people first.

"Round two is now with the Mayor and the Conservative members of LFEPA, who so far seem happy to take serious risks with the safety of Londoners."