‘No more cuts’ for fire brigade, warns review ordered by Mayor
The review, which looked at the impact of the closure of 10 fire stations – including Belsize in Lancaster Grove
24 November, 2016 — By William McLennan
The Finchley Road fire Picture: Shademan Irvanipour
THE London Fire Brigade (LFB) cannot withstand any further cuts to their budget, according to a review of emergency cover ordered by London Mayor Sadiq Khan.
The findings, which follow the New Journal’s probe into the funding of the fire service, will be considered by members of City Hall’s Fire Authority today (Thursday).
The review, which looked at the impact of the closure of 10 fire stations – including Belsize in Lancaster Grove – that were axed by former mayor Boris Johnson, found that “there should be no additional reductions to the LFB’s budget”.
Anthony Mayer, who served as Ken Livingstone’s right-hand man and was appointed by Mr Khan to lead the review, said that while the brigade continued to meet its average target attendance times across London, there had been “some increase in attendance times”.
Mr Mayer added: “It is too early to form a definitive judgment.”
The impact of Mr Johnson’s cuts were put under the microscope by the New Journal’s Thin Red Line investigation, launched following the death in October last year of pensioner Choi Yip in a fire at his sheltered housing flat in Camden Road. Fire crews, who were busy dealing with a major blaze in Finchley Road, took more than double their six-minute target attendance time to reach Mr Yip. The delay was blamed on the Finchley Road fire and the New Journal pursued Mr Johnson in the street asking if the LFB was no longer able to tackle two simultaneous fires.
Mr Mayer said that a close eye should be kept on future impacts of the cuts, “the ability of the LFB to attend multiple incidents” and “adverse trends in fire deaths”.
Despite outlining the need to protect the brigade from further cuts, Mr Mayer said there was “no persuasive case for increasing LFB’s resources”, adding: “In the current public spending climate, these pressures are best addressed by making better use of existing resources.”
Mr Khan, who made his first public pledge to review the LFB to the New Journal last year, said he was “encouraged to see that, despite heavy cuts, the LFB continues to do a fantastic job”.
He added: “However, we cannot be complacent. I will be carefully considering these recommendations and doing everything in my power to ensure that every step is taken to keep London as prepared and safe as possible.”
The Fire Brigades Union, which vociferously campaigned against the cuts, said it welcomed the review’s findings.
Ian Leahair, executive council member for the FBU in London, said: “This is a step in the right direction to begin to rebuild the London Fire Brigade after eight years of reckless cuts under Boris Johnson. Anthony Mayer makes clear that we cannot cope with any further budget cuts.”
The report that will be considered by the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority – a group of cross-party politicians who oversee the brigade’s budget – concluded that the review required “careful consideration” and that LFB officers will produce a “draft action plan” by January next year.