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London's fire authority rejects plans to close Belsize Park and Westminster fire stations

PUBLISHED: 10:46 19 July 2013 | UPDATED: 10:46 19 July 2013

Firefighters gathered outside London Fire Brigade's HQ, where yesterday's fire authority meeting was being held, to protest the cuts. Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Firefighters gathered outside London Fire Brigade's HQ, where yesterday's fire authority meeting was being held, to protest the cuts. Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Controversial plans to close Belsize Park and Westminster fire stations have been rejected by London's fire authority - but the Mayor is expected to push ahead with the proposals anyway.

London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority voted against the proposals on Thursday, which the Fire Brigades Union fear would put lives at risk by increasing response times across the capital.

But opponents of the plans now expect Mayor of London Boris Johnson to implement the cuts regardless.

The Mayor previously invoked rarely used legal powers to force through a public consultation on the measures, which had also been rejected by the authority.

Under the plans - designed to save £28.8 million over the next two years - 10 fire stations, including Westminster and Belsize Park, would close, 552 jobs would be cut and 14 fire engines would be lost.

The plans have already been revised following a public consultation, with two stations removed from the closure proposals.

London fire commissioner Ron Dobson has justified the proposals the service was now attending far fewer fires each year, with the figure continuing to fall and - even with the cuts - response times would “remain amongst the very best of any emergency service in the UK”.

But London Assembly Member Murad Qureshi claims the closures would see response times to many areas increase to outside the required six minutes.

What’s more, a survey of 1,500 Londoners for the Fire Brigades Union found that seven out of 10 believed the cuts would put public safety at risk.

General secretary Matt Wrack said: “Government cuts are putting lives at risk across the country, but Londoners are particularly at threat because of the mayor’s own attacks on the capital’s fire service.

“In a fire, every second counts. These cuts plans ignore that crucial fact.

“The cuts are wrong, dangerous and massively unpopular among the public, and even Boris Johnson’s Conservative support base.

“It’s time for common sense and democracy to prevail and for public safety to be put first.”

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