A demonstration took place outside the meeting by the LFEPA (London Fire and Emergency planning authority) on Monday 21st January, opposing the recent Fire brigade cut proposals. The meeting resulted in the rejection of these cuts but the consultation will still be going ahead.
The crowds gathered outside Brigade HQ opposing the £45 million cuts proposed by The Mayor, Boris Johnson and the London fire commissioner, Ron Dobson. The FBU (Fire brigade union) organized the demonstration and speakers that took to the stage on Union Street in Southbank.
Hundreds of fire fighters, union workers and representatives and members of the public came to show their support. London Labour MP’s Kate Hoey and John Cryer spoke, as well as Labour fire authority member Andrew Dismore amongst others. They took to the stage to support the campaign against the cuts that may happen to the LFEPA budget.
The latest proposal suggests closing 12 fire stations within the city including Clapham who responded to the recent helicopter accident in Vauxhall. Also, around 520 fire fighters would lose their jobs.
Luke Bell, fire fighter at Whitechapel station, said, “We will be losing a pump at our station, and also another station in our borough, so two appliances which means Tower Hamlets will be getting hit really hard. Response times will go up. We were on the list to be closed so we have been very vocal about it signing petitions and starting campaigns over the last few months.
“Voluntary retirement letters were handing out a few months ago. “They offered a nice sum of money, but no one is going to take it out.”
According to the London fire brigade figures, the number of fires in the city have dropped significantly in the past ten years. However, many boroughs across London have many highly populated high rise blocks of flats, and these are a big concern for many as they are often the most challenging fires to control.” Tower Hamlets is one of the poorest boroughs and it seems madness. There are such a large amount of high rise buildings and risks in the area where loads of people are crammed together. Everyone saw what happened with the Larks estate fire in Camberwell – that’s how people lose their lives.” Luke continued.
Dave Lewis of the Sceaux Gardens Tenants’ and residents Association, whose estate includes Lakanal House was present and also said a few words. The Lakanal house fire, in Southwark, happened on the 3rd July in 2009 and cost six people their lives and 20 were injured. Fire fighters came to the scene of the twelve floor building within five minutes.
Jess Bate, a fire fighter at Euston, says, “We aren’t being directly affected but it impacts us all.
The situation is bigger than the fire brigade and the public sector is being hit really hard. I think it’s disgusting what they are doing. They might think its acceptable now but once those jobs are gone they can never come back and the population is growing. I don’t know how they’ll cope it the future.”
Ian Pattison, socialist party member was handing out flyers at the demonstration. “We are calling for a 24 hour general strike bringing public and private sector workers together along with fire fighters and other workers facing the cuts to show we are taking a united action.”
Paul Embery, the regional secretary for the fire brigade union represents 6,000 London fire fighters and is a fire fighter and representative. He was introducing the speakers, “They can’t ignore it. There’s such passion and a force here today and I don’t think it’s just fire fighters that are angry about it, it’s the public too.”
The final decision about whether the cuts will happen will be announced in June. But, the “budgetary issue” can be overruled by Boris Johnson.
Paul continued, “If they carry on with the proposals against the public then they do so at their own peril.”