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Fire authority shake-up could put public safety ‘at risk’

A young campaigner outside Belsize fire station earlier this year A young campaigner outside Belsize fire station earlier this year

Wednesday, July 30, 2014
2:00 PM

Public safety could be at risk if a proposed shake-up of politicians in charge of London’s fire services gets the green light, according to Camden’s communities chief.

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Cllr Abdul Hai, cabinet member for communities, said that Mayor of London Boris Johnson is running a “dictatorship” in response to his proposals for fewer democratically-elected councillors and more mayor-appointed members on the The London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority (LFEPA), which runs the London Fire Brigade.

Cllr Hai argued that the mayor plans to surround himself with people who will not “stand up for Londoners”, which could put the public’s safety in jeopardy.

Cllr Jonathan Simpson, cabinet member for community safety, likened the restructure to the cost-saving reorganisation of policing last year by the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) at a cabinet meeting last Wednesday (July 23).

Those changes have led Hampstead residents to plead for an increased police presence on their streets in the wake of spate of robberies following the closure of Hampstead police station a year ago.

Cllr Simpson said: “I think it’s very unfortunate... that the Mayor has decided to really run scared of proper scrutiny and has suggested a real change in the composition of the London Fire Authority, similar to the changes suggested for MOPAC which really have undermined community confidence and their ability to respond to local need.”

The former Camden mayor added that Mr Johnson “doesn’t like” proper scrutiny following the fierce opposition to fire station closures, including Belsize Fire Station, last year.

The Mayor proposed that there should be four more mayor-appointed members and two fewer democratically-elected councillors from London boroughs sitting on the LFEPA.

The authority is currently made up of eight London Assembly members, which would reduce to six under the changes, seven London borough councillors and two mayoral representatives.

Cllr Hai said: “I think it makes a mockery of the democratic process where you’ve got to have proper accountability and hear different perspectives and different views.

“I think it’s almost working like a dictatorship and there’s no say. My worst fear is that will put public safety at risk, and people in that room will just say what he wants to hear rather than standing up for Londoners.”

The council has submitted a formal objection to the changes to the department for communities and local government.

A spokesperson for the Mayor said: “The Mayor was elected on one of the largest personal mandates in the country and, unlike the members of the Fire Authority, he is directly accountable to Londoners.

“The proposed changes to the Fire Authority will ensure a more effective decision-making process that better reflects the Mayor’s mandate and will help to achieve a more robust and stable fire service for London, which operates within its funding constraints.”

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