Boris Johnson blasted over plans to press ahead with fire engine cuts despite public opposition
PUBLISHED: 15:40 17 February 2016 | UPDATED: 15:57 17 February 2016
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Politicians representing Camden, Barnet and Haringey have blasted Mayor Boris Johnson’s “pig-headed” plans to scrap 13 fire engines in the face of fierce public opposition.
At a City Hall meeting this morning, assembly members voted in favour of alternative proposals put forward by Andrew Dismore, Labour member for Camden and Barnet, but Mr Johnson has the power to ignore the vote and has indicated that he may press ahead with the cuts regardless.
Mr Dismore suggested a different way in which the £11.8 million savings could be made whilst retaining the engines, by changing the way some vehicles are crewed.
After the meeting, Mr Dismore said he thought Mr Johnson was being “pig-headed” in refusing to back down.
He said: “It is a disgrace that the Mayor of London wishes to put two fingers up to Londoners over such an important public safety issue. The fire authority has now done its duty by London – let us see if the Mayor will now accept our decision, or try to force through his completely unnecessary cuts.”
Labour Assembly Member for Enfield and Haringey, Joanne McCartney, echoed Mr Dismore’s view.
She said: “It is time the Mayor listened to what Londoners are telling him and backed down from this plan to axe yet more fire engines.”
A London Fire Brigade consultation found more than 70 per cent of nearly 1,500 respondents oppose the plans, and would support Mr Dismore’s proposal.
The latest proposals would see the permanent removal of fire engines which have been temporarily out of service from stations including Willesden and Holloway.
Mr Johnson sparked controversy last month, when he referred to these vehicles as “useless engines”, which he is in favour of taking out of use “primarily on the grounds of financial prudence”, according to a letter written by deputy mayor Sir Edward Lister.
Belsize Park Fire Station was closed in 2014 in a blitz of cuts, and response times have since increased in ten of Camden’s boroughs.
The impact of these cuts has been scrutinised in the wake of a fatal fire in Camden Road last year, which broke out when all engines from the nearest stations were engaged in fighting a major blaze in Finchley Road.
An 85-year-old man, Choi Yip, apparently leapt to his death from his sheltered housing block, whilst engines from as far afield as Stanmore took over 13 minutes to reach the scene, well outside of the brigade’s six minute target. The inquest into his death is due to take place next month.
The Mayor will have to make his final decision by March 17, although he could announce it as early as this Monday at a City Hall meeting.