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Mayor appears to commit to protecting London's fire services


By Tristan Kirk

THE Mayor of London appears to have quashed the idea of cutting the number of fire engines in the capital.

London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority last week agreed to investigate the possibility of cutting 27 appliances from the brigade in the wake of October's industrial action.

But Boris Johnson, when quizzed on the matter, said: “I have talked to the chairman [of the authority] about this matter and I'm assured there are no plans for a reduction in frontline services.”

When pressed by Navin Shah, assembly member for Brent and Harrow, Mr Johnson added: “I'm in favour of retaining the 27 fire appliances. I'm not going to get into some pointless argument with you when we are entirely in agreement that there shouldn't be a reduction of fire appliances.”

When the idea was suggested by the fire authority, chairman by Brian Coleman, it caused uproar among the Fire Brigade Union.

Mr Coleman suggested that the strike by the capital's firefighters had shown the brigade could cope with less resources, and the authority was obliged to investigate making cuts.

When the strike was called, 27 engines were used to provide fire cover.

Matt Wrack, general secretary of the union, said 27 engines have now been taken out of service and accused Mr Coleman of acting spitefully.

He said: “I have an idea that Brian Coleman thinks he’s somehow punishing firefighters for their two recent one-day strikes, by confiscating 27 of their fire engines.

“It’s a childish way of behaving, and the Mayor should have told Mr Coleman to grow up and return London’s fire engines, not providing cover for him.

“What Mr Coleman wants to do is slash the fire service in London, and the Mayor covered up for him this morning. Neither of them know the first thing about the risks of firefighting.”

This is the latest twist in a rumbling dispute between the fire union and brigade management, who started talks on Tuesday to try to resolve the problems, about changes to shift patterns.

Ron Dobson, Brigade Commissioner, said: “I hope that the recommendations from the meeting will help us bring an end to the current dispute.

“Although the meeting won’t result in an immediate agreement, I do expect recommendations to come back to both ourselves and the Union within a week or so.

“I hope we can then finally agree start and finish times that will help us make Londoners and firefighters safer.”

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18th November 2010