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Fire chiefs save two stations - but Belsize still set for axe

PUBLISHED: 16:47 12 July 2013

West Hampstead firefighter Sam Lee at the front of the march to save Belsize fire station. Picture: Polly Hancock

West Hampstead firefighter Sam Lee at the front of the march to save Belsize fire station. Picture: Polly Hancock

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Fire chiefs are ploughing on with plans to axe Belsize fire station - despite announcing a scaled-back version of their controversial cuts proposals.

Campaigners in Haverstock Hill on their way to Belsize fire station. Picture: Polly HancockCampaigners in Haverstock Hill on their way to Belsize fire station. Picture: Polly Hancock

Two fire stations in south London, Clapham and New Cross, look to be saved after the London Fire Brigade (LFB) made changes to its £28.8million cuts plan following a public consultation.

But the Belsize base in Lancaster Grove, Belsize Park, remains on a list of 10 stations that are still earmarked for closure – despite fears that thousands of Camden residents will be put at risk by a massive hike in fire response waiting times.

Cllr Abdul Hai, Camden Council’s cabinet member for community safety, said: “We believe these cuts to be dangerous with wide-reaching consequences for the whole of Camden. The fight is not over and we must absolutely continue to oppose these plans.”

The number of engines due to be scrapped across the capital was also reduced from 18 to 14, although firefighter job cuts have risen from 520 to 552.

Belsize Fire station earmarked for closureBelsize Fire station earmarked for closure

Ben Sprung, the Fire Brigades Union representative for Camden, said: “We’re tremendously disappointed – their decision is clearly not based around safety, it’s based around budgets.

“Belsize is as badly affected as the two stations they’re saving. If the plan was safe, why bother changing it?”

Shock figures released in May revealed that Camden would be the worst-hit borough under the cuts, with the biggest increases in average waits for fire engines.

Some 12,000 residents in Belsize ward will have to wait 7m59s on average – two minutes over the brigade’s six minute target.

“The people of Camden are going to be put at risk because of the Mayor of London’s obstinance,” added Mr Sprung.

Scores of Camden firefighters are set to march from Monument to the LFB’s headquarters in Southwark on Thursday, when the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority, the political body that runs the LFB, is due to vote on the plans.

The authority could be heading for a legal fight with Mayor of London Boris Johnson if members vote against the closures.

London fire commissioner Ron Dobson, who has been told to save £45million over two years by the Mayor, said: “We have to acknowledge that the number of fires we attend has gone down by half in the last ten years, and our latest figures show that fires continued to fall at the same rate last year.

“Under my revised proposals, response times in London will remain amongst the very best of any emergency service in the UK.”

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