Mayor Boris Johnson has ordered London’s fire authority to go ahead with a controversial plan to close 10 fire stations and axe 14 fire engines.
The cuts are included in a new London Safety Plan drawn up by Fire Commissioner Ron Dobson in the wake of reductions in central Government and City Hall funding for the London Fire Brigade.
The plan also includes proposals to reclaim more money from building owners responsible for false alarms and from neighbouring areas where the Brigade attends instead of a local fire crew.
Commissioner Dobson says the reductions in station and engine numbers will not adversely impact the safety of Londoners.
However members of the fire authority opposed the plans and only approved a public consultation on it after Mayor Boris Johnson used his power to order them to do so.
Following the consultation a revised plan was drawn up, reducing the scale of closures but increasing the number of jobs to be lost from 520 to 552.
The revised final plan was partly rejected by a majority of authority members last month who voted to remove all reference to the cuts, but gave the go-ahead for its other proposals.
The opposing majority consisted of Labour, Liberal Democrat and Green Party members of the Authority.
Critics say the Mayor could avoid making cuts by abandoning a planned 7p per week cut in his share of the council tax.
However a document confirming the Mayor’s decision to instruct authority members to proceed with the Safety Plan says “it is not realistic” to seek additional funds when the entire Greater London Authority and its functional bodies are facing “very substantial funding reductions”.
The document also concludes that final London Safety Plan “was based on a sound consultation exercise and put Londoners’ continued safety at its heart”.
As a result of the Mayor’s decision, the authority must now approve the full Plan and authorise the Commissioner to commence its implementation by September 16th.
Fire Authority Chairman, James Cleverly, said: “I’m pleased that the Mayor has backed me and given his full support to the Fire Commissioner’s plan. Like all Fire Brigades we need to save money without compromising our ability to protect people. The proposals are responsible and proportionate to the significant reduction in fire risk.
“Labour, as always, refuse to acknowledge the need for reform and, at a time of considerable financial constraint, have insisted on increased budgets. The Mayor’s decision means that we can finally provide clarity and stability to our firefighters, who over the last year have suffered from the prolonged uncertainty of this unnecessarily protracted process.”
Ian Leahair, Fire Brigades Union Executive Member for London, branded the cuts as “dangerous and wrong” and described the Mayor’s decision as “devastating news for Londoners”.
He added: “Johnson has simply ignored the evidence, and his cuts will mean slower response times for 4 million Londoners. It’s also an affront to democracy: Johnson has not listened to Londoners, his own fire authority or the elected representatives on the London Assembly.”