Boris Johnson overrules fire authority and vows to push ahead with Westminster fire station closure
PUBLISHED: 17:54 22 January 2013 | UPDATED: 17:54 22 January 2013
Mayor of London Boris Johnson has vowed to push through plans to close 12 fire stations including Westminster, despite his own fire authority voting against the proposal.
Mr Johnson will invoke rarely-used legal powers to overrule changes to his plans that were backed by the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority (LFEPA) this week, which would have stopped any station closures.
Instead the original plans, put forward by London Fire Brigade commissioner Ron Dobson and approved by Mr Johnson, will go out for public consultation before a final decision is made by the LFEPA in June.
On Monday the LFEPA rejected Mr Johnson’s plan – which would see 12 fire stations closed, 18 fire engines and 520 firefighter posts removed across London – by nine votes to eight, and proposed an alternative plans to prevent any cuts and add four engines.
The Fire Brigades Union’s regional secretary for London, Paul Embery, said: “We welcome the decision of the fire authority to reject these reckless and dangerous cuts. It was the right outcome. But Boris Johnson’s intervention is deplorable. It is arrogant in the extreme for the mayor to think he knows better than his own fire authority.
“The mayor’s unprecedented move raises all sorts of questions about democracy and accountability. He should listen to his fire authority, he should listen to the workforce, and he should listen to Londoners, the vast majority of whom oppose these cuts. If he pushes ahead, we will campaign vigorously to defend London’s fire service.”
But Mr Johnson said the LFEPA’s amendment “demonstrates a complete lack of leadership”.
Plans to close the Westminster fire station have been met with stiff, cross-party opposition in Westminster. Cllr Philippa Roe, leader of Westminster Council, its Labour opposition leader Cllr Paul Dimoldenberg, Westminster North MP Karen Buck and Murad Qureshi, Londonwide Labour member of the London Assembly have all spoken out against the move, which aims to cut the brigade’s budget by £45million in the next two years.
Mr Qureshi said: “We will fight these closures tooth and nail, we are here to represent Londoners and we will take this fight to Boris. He cannot try and wash his hands of these cuts. He is the Mayor of London and the buck stops with him.”
He said the final fire budget will not be voted on until March so Mr Johnson still has time to rethink the plans, adding: “We understand that savings have to be made, but the level of cuts forced on the London Fire Brigade by the Mayor and government are truly reckless. They are cutting too far and too fast.”
But Mr Johnson said: “I am of course always willing to listen to submissions but it’s quite clear today’s decision offers nothing positive, indeed it demonstrates a complete lack of leadership.
“This must and will be about improving London’s fire service, equipping the brigade for the challenges of 21st century firefighting, and maintaining our exceptional response times across both inner and outer London.”
He added: “This consultation will continue as planned. I will be issuing a Mayoral directive to ensure it does.”
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