Consultation on a new London fire and safety plan which will axe 12 fire stations and 18 engines is set to go ahead after the capital’s fire authority backed down in a row with London Mayor Boris Johnson.
The closures form part of the London Fire Brigade’s efforts to meet £45m of budget cuts imposed by Central Government and City Hall but have been opposed by the Fire Brigades Union, local councils and members of the London Assembly.
Last month Labour, Green and Liberal Democrat members on the London Fire Emergency and Planning Authority (LFEPA) voted to block consultation on the closure plans and called on the Mayor to provide more funding.
The parties claimed the Mayor could avoid the closures if he scrapped plans to cut City Hall’s share of the council tax by 7p per week.
City Hall says “difficult decisions” have had to be made in order to ensure the fire brigade has a “balanced budget” and to allow savings to be phased in over a number of years and so avoid compulsory job losses.
Fire commissioner Ron Dobson has repeatedly said the changes will not impact on Londoners’ safety.
Following the LFEPA vote, the Mayor issued a Mayoral Directive ordering the authority to proceed with the consultation. However the three parties refused to back down and earlier this month passed a motion defying the Mayor’s instruction and vowed to fight to the cuts.
That move prompted the Mayor to threaten to seek a Judicial Review unless the fire authority confirmed by 5pm, Tuesday February 26th that it would comply with his instructions.
On Monday the three parties failed in their efforts to use a London Assembly vote to amend the Mayor’s budget and scrap the planned council tax cut.
At the same meeting the Mayor said he had to follow the impartial advice of senior fire officers and make tough but necessary decisions.
The consultation is now set to go ahead after the parties backed down during an emergency meeting of the fire authority held on Tuesday, saying it was against Londoners’ interests to spend money on litigation.
However the authority passed a motion delaying any “cuts to frontline services” to the next financial year. Labour say the move “has created time for a meaningful and wide-ranging consultation with Londoners”.
LFEPA and Assembly member Navin Shah said: “Boris has been forced to take stock and delay his cuts which are too far and too fast. We will now hear what ordinary Londoners think about his plans and this will guide us in our battle to save our much needed frontline fire services.
“The men and women of the London Fire Brigade do a fantastic job protecting us when we need them most. Now it is our turn to stand up for them and the people they protect every day.”
Green party London Assembly Member Darren Johnson called on the Mayor to listen to the views of Londoners during the consultation, saying: “The Mayor can ignore the majority of the Assembly but he can’t ignore the majority of Londoners.”
Mr Johnson added: “I now urge anyone concerned about the closure of 12 fire stations and the loss 18 fire appliances to respond to the consultation and speak out in favour of putting safety first.”