Budget proposals which could see the permanent axing of thirteen fire engines to help cut costs at the London Fire Brigade are to be considered by the capital’s fire authority next week.
The engines were withdrawn from day-to-day service in August 2013 to ensure that private contractors had sufficient equipment to provide emergency cover during strikes by Fire Brigades Union members.
Earlier this year the LFB and FBU agreed the engines would return to the frontline in return for the union providing enough notice of strikes that they could be handed over to contractors.
However that deal was suspended after Mayor Boris Johnson ordered fire commissioner Ron Dobson to draw up budget plans which included axing the withheld appliances.
City Hall said the Mayor was happy with the Brigade’s performance during their absence after official figures showed that deaths by fire have halved over the last five years and that response times for the first and second engines to arrive at an incident were being met.
At next week’s meeting Mr Dobson will present London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority members with two options, both of which include the engines’ permanent withdrawal, and one of which would free up additional cash to increase the staff available to crew Fire Rescue Units.
He said: “My priority when exploring how we can make these savings is to ensure we don’t compromise our service to Londoners and to avoid compulsory redundancies of firefighters.
“I have identified two possible ways of making these savings that mean we avoid compulsory redundancies for operational staff.
“We have managed without the 13 fire engines for over two years now and our response times have still remained well within our average attendance time targets.”
However the Commissioner has been criticised by authority and Labour London Assembly member Andrew Dismore who opposes axing the engines and has put forward his own budget proposals.
Under Mr Dismore’s plans the Brigade would instead make savings by having a single crew 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.
Mr Dismore said: “Whilst the Commissioner would gladly have us believe that he has to take fire engines out of service to meet the Mayor’s £13.2m fire brigade cuts, we have developed a fully costed alternative.
“Instead of taking the easy option, we can achieve the Mayor’s savings target without threatening the frontline, without putting Londoners at risk and without cutting fire engines.”
The proposals will be discussed by authority members on Wednesday, 2 December. Papers and details of how to watch the meeting can be found at london-fire.gov.uk.