London is set to lose 13 fire engines after Mayor Boris Johnson overruled the capital’s fire authority and ordered the adoption of budget proposals drawn up by the Fire Commissioner.
The engines were withdrawn from day-to-day service in August 2013 to ensure private contractors could provide emergency cover during strikes by firefighters.
With funding for fire services set to fall, Commissioner Ron Dobson recommended their axing on the basis that their permanent absence could not adversely impact current response times.
In addition to axing the 13 appliances, Mr Dobson’s budget allocates £1m for community safety schemes and will see a one-off payment of £3.5m into the London Fire Brigade’s pension provision.
Despite the Commissioner’s views, a majority of members on the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority (LFEPA) backed an alternative budget which would retain the engines but move to single crewing at stations which operate specialist appliances such as aerial ladder platforms alongside a fire engine.
This would mean that either the engine or the specialist appliance could be deployed but not both at once.
Although a majority of those taking part in a public consultation favoured the alternative budget, Mr Dobson last month asked authority members to adopt his original proposal.
When a majority voted in favour of the rival plan, Mayor Johnson’s office said he was “minded” to use his powers to overrule members and order them to adopt Dobson’s budget.
Mr Johnson has now written to authority chairman Gareth Bacon directing members to implement the Commissioner’s proposals in full, including axing the appliances.
LFEPA and Liberal Democrat London Assembly Member Stephen Knight said: “It is extremely frustrating that the Mayor has once again not listened to the elected members of LFEPA who offered up alternative savings to the permanent cut of 13 London fire engines.
“Despite what the Mayor would have us believe, the London Fire Brigade’s response times have deteriorated whilst these engines have temporarily been out of service and they should now be returned to the run as originally intended.
“When London’s population is growing rapidly and everyone is aware of the security risks facing the capital it is reckless to unnecessarily reduce London’s firefighting capability as the Mayor now intends.”