Controversial cuts forced through by Boris Johnson have had no significant impact on the London Fire Brigade’s ability to respond to incidents, according to a review commissioned by Mayor Sadiq Khan.
During his eight years as Mayor, Mr Johnson slashed funding to the Brigade and ordered the scrapping of 10 fire stations, 27 fire appliances and 500 firefighter posts.
When members of the capital’s fire authority opposed the cuts, the former Mayor used his legal power to overrule members and force them through.
Critics, including Labour, Green and Liberal Democrat members of the London Assembly, claimed the cuts would adversely impact response times and jeopardise Londoners’ safety.
Speaking at the time, Fiona Twycross, a Labour London Assembly member and now chair of the fire authority, claimed Mr Johnson’s cuts would “lead to significantly increased response times to incidents across London” and had accused Johnson of “putting politics ahead of public safety.”
The Brigade always rejected such claims, a stance backed today by the review which was carried out by former City Hall Chief Executive Anthony Mayer who says the LFB “has coped well” with its reduced funding and has succeeded in “protecting its frontline response”.
He says “LFB maintains attendance times which are 0.5 minutes and 0.6 minutes faster than West Midlands and Greater Manchester respectively” and is meeting its target of an average response time of six minutes “in almost every borough.”
The review also found there had been “significant capital investment in property and the fleet” during the Johnson mayoralty, which was funded through the £54.6 million generated by the sale of axed fire stations.
Mr Mayer also finds that cuts were delivered by “protecting frontline firefighters as far as possible at the expense of support staff and senior officers” whose numbers have fallen to below national averages.
Fire Commissioner Ron Dobson and Mr Johnson had always maintained that the cuts in appliances and stations was deliverable because the number of fires in the capital had fallen. Mayer’s report confirms “the ten-year average has been falling from 75 in 2006 to 47 in 2015” and says this reduction has “partially mitigated” the reduction in frontline capability.
Mayer says there “should be no additional reductions to LFB’s budget” as a result of any future review but adds there is “no persuasive case for increasing LFB’s resources over and above meeting natural cost inflation.”
In a statement issued by City Hall, he said: “London Fire Brigade continues to do an excellent job at keeping Londoners safe and reducing fires across the capital.
“In the face of significant funding reductions, it has not faltered but implemented a number of sensible and successful adaptations.
“Nevertheless, it is important that the current budget gap is not allowed to widen further.”
Conservative AM Gareth Bacon, who was chair of the fire authority for some of Mr Johnson’s mayoralty, said he was “delighted” that the former Mayor’s decisions “have been fully vindicated”.
He added: “This puts an end to months and years of misdirected and noisy opposition which has done nothing to assist London Fire Brigade in implementing these changes.
“I fully welcome today’s findings which is yet more validation of the great work done to improve London’s fire service.
“The London Fire Brigade is an immensely talented organisation and we should commend them for improving the service while making these much needed savings.”