FIRE stations across Greenwich borough could be closed under dramatic cost-cutting plans by the London Fire Brigade.
The Mayor of London Boris Johnson has instructed the brigade to save £65 million over the next two years. Up to 30 stations, 30 fire engines and 840 jobs across London are now under threat.
Greenwich borough is a particular target for cuts according to an internal report leaked to Greenwich.co.uk. Members of the London Fire authority were told recently that:
"One appliance stations are an expensive way of providing the service… In Greenwich, it costs some £940k pa more [than similar boroughs], because it is delivered mostly from one-appliance stations"
Greenwich, East Greenwich, Eltham, Woolwich, and Lee Green fire stations are all currently run with just one fire engine. Only Plumstead fire station has two. By contrast Bexley has just three fire stations covering the whole borough.
Under a proposal being considered by the brigade, only one-appliance stations will be targeted for closure.
Excerpt from leaked document
Any closures could significantly increase the time it takes firefighters to reach incidents in the borough. According to internal brigade statistics, response times for two-appliance stations are up to three times longer on average, than for areas covered by single-appliance stations.
The proposals have reignited fears of strike action. A spokesperson for the Fire Brigade Union told Greenwich.co.uk:
"It is very difficult to see at this stage how they will be able to carry out such deep cuts without compromising public safety and reducing the level of fire cover in parts of London. When it comes to fire, seconds count, and quick response times are crucial. If we believe any proposals would jeopardise the safety of Londoners, we will do everything in our power to resist their implementation.”
Asked about station closures earlier this month the Mayor’s chairman of the Fire Authority James Cleverly pointed out that the number of fires across London has dramatically reduced in recent years. Over the last 12 years the number of fires in London has fallen from 48,000 a year to just 27,000.
A spokesperson for the London Fire Brigade said today:
"Like virtually every other public service, the brigade is facing the need to make savings. The Mayor has given a target for these savings, and we are considering our response to this. All options are being considered but no decisions have yet been made.”
A full list of stations threatened with closure will be released in November.
Nick Raynsford MP provided this comment in response to the story above:
"As the Government's austerity programme bites harder, it is clear that serious spending cuts are being considered at City Hall affecting the Metropolitan Police Service and the London Fire Brigade. These could well have a disastrous impact on front-line services, including the downgrading of Neighbourhood Police Teams, the loss of fire appliances and closure of Police and Fire Stations.
While not opposed to efficiency savings which have no adverse impact on public safety, I will be scrutinising very closely any proposals which could increase the risk of harm to the public through crime, fire or other emergency, and will strenuously oppose and such cuts that threaten the safety of Greenwich and Woolwich".