Boris Johnson has refused to scrap an instruction to the capital’s fire authority ordering members to consider the merits of withholding pay for striking firefighters.
Earlier this week the Mayor instructed the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority (LFEPA) to consider a report assessing the feasibility of withholding pay for an entire shift, even when firefighters only strike for some of it.
LFEPA operates as a standalone authority but Mr Johnson, who sets it annual budget, has the power to overrule members by issuing a written ‘Direction’.
That power was used for the first time last summer when Mr Johnson directed authority members to consult Londoners over proposals to close fire stations and axe fire engines in the wake of cuts in both City Hall and UK Government grants.
In recent months the Mayor has issued a number of further directions, including instructing the authority on how it should manage the sale of closed fire station buildings.
Opposition members of the authority believe the Mayor is undermining their role by issuing so many decisions but the Mayor, who wants to reform the body, says Londoners hold him accountable for pan-London services.
Firefighters across England have held a series of strikes in protest at Government plans to increase the age at which they can retire on a full pension.
The Fire Brigades Union claims many members would be unable to stay fit enough to work until the higher age and would be sacked, thereby losing some of their pension entitlement.
LFEPA members had previously rejected adopting the so-called ‘locking out’ policy but the Mayor, concerned at the cost of hiring private contractors to provide emergency cover, ordered a report be presented to the authority’s meeting on October 2nd.
On Wednesday opposition members of the London Assembly called on Mr Johnson to withdraw the ‘Mayoral Direction’.
That call was repeated by a majority of LFEPA members at a meeting of the authority’s Appointments and Urgency Committee Meeting on Thursday.
Critics, including Labour AM Andrew Dismore, say the Mayor should reconsider his instruction in the face of Assembly and LFEPA opposition and the fact that LFEPA had already rejected adopting the policy.
In addition, they say brigades which adopted the policy were subsequently forced to reverse their decision “due to the impracticability of that approach”.
However a letter from the Mayor’s chief of staff, Sir Edward Lister, says Mr Johnson “will not be reconsidering” his instruction and believes the full authority should receive a “balanced report” to inform any future decision .
In his letter, Sir Edward reminds authority members that Mayoral Directions are a binding instruction to act and not “an opportunity to start a debate”.
During last year’s row over station closures authority members sought legal advice on the possible of disobeying the Mayor’s instructions but were advised this would be illegal.