Even as they were fighting cuts to the London Fire Brigade, opposition members of the London Fire Emergency and Planning Authority were preparing to ensure that Londoners would get a meaningful say on the plans.
To achieve this, members instructed Fire Commissioner Ron Dobson and his officers to hold a series of public meetings which were to last “at least 2 hours”.
It was boasted that these meetings would be superior to the “sham” and “shameful” consultations organised by the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) for the (then) draft crime plan.
When I queried the running time with one Authority member he assured me that Londoners would be queueing round the block to have their say and that the shorter MOPAC meetings had short-changed attendees.
Authority members subsequently approved the adverts and texts for the consultation meetings with such vigour and attention to detail that one unkind soul has likened them to a church jumble sale organising committee.
The full scope of the changes and modifications members insisted on is listed here.
So with carefully worded adverts placed in local and community press, how many people turned up to the first meeting held this Monday at Barking and Dagenham’s Boothroyd Hall?
Fire brigade insiders suggest that the number of ordinary members of the public – i.e not firefighters – in attendance was actually far lower, the numbers ‘two’ and ‘four’ being the most popular estimates.
The cost of giving this handful of Londoners the chance to listen to and express views on the proposals clocks in at £1,215. That breaks down as follows: £735 to advertise the meeting and a further £480 to hire the venue.
To save you the math, that’s about £300 per head if we accept the most generous head-count.
It would have cost less to let the attendees discuss their concerns with Commissioner Dobson over a slap-up meal at the local steak or curry house.
Across town at the Met, who have yet to satisfy me that they’re really saving as much as possible, Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe promises his officers will visit each and every crime victim and witness at a time and place of their choosing.
If take up for the fire consultation meetings doesn’t improve quickly, LFEPA might want tweak the Met’s model and ask Commissioner Dobson to pop round and explain the draft fire plan to anyone interested.
The size of the average living room might not be big enough for LFEPA members to also go along, but as the purpose of the meetings was to illuminate the public and not to grandstand, I can’t see anyone having a problem with that.