Johnson threatens to sack London firefighters
London mayor Boris Johnson is threatening firefighters with compulsory redundancies after failing to persuade the capital’s fire authority to consult on his plans to close a dozen fire stations.
Report by Paul Feldman
Photos by Peter Arkell
The London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority this week reaffirmed an earlier decision to ignore a directive from the mayor’s office and reject the mayor’s proposals.
Johnson’s plans include the loss of 520 jobs and are part of a £45 million cuts package. They are supported by the London Fire Brigade senior management. London fire commissioner Ron Dobson has proposed cutting around 10% of frontline firefighters posts.
But Labour and Liberal Democrat members of the authority said the mayor should freeze council tax instead of cutting it to save the stations from closure. They carried the day after a three-hour debate.
Although Tory members voted to support the Johnson plan, the inner London boroughs of Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea – both Conservative-controlled – have expressed alarm at the cuts, which would lengthen journey time to call-outs.
The mayor now faces the prospect of having to take legal action, which could lead to a lengthy hearing in the High Court.
Fire Brigades Union’s regional secretary for London, Paul Embery, said,
“Authority members did the right thing, and we applaud their stance. Hostility to the mayor’s planned cuts is growing by the day.
“The fire authority, the workforce, the public, the Greater London Assembly and even some Conservative councils have all expressed opposition to the cuts. The cuts would mean 4.7million Londoners across 20 boroughs waiting longer for a fire engine, and that is dangerous and wrong. It’s about time the mayor grasped the nettle and abandoned his reckless plans.”
Johnson said: “I am mystified why the fire authority has decided to play politics and once again totally disregard the plans proposed by the fire commissioner.
“Delaying this consultation leaves the London Fire Brigade in a precarious position and may now lead to compulsory redundancies for some firefighters, which is entirely irresponsible.”
Navin Shah, Labour’s London Assembly fire spokesman, said: “Boris has a clear choice – he can either cut council tax by 7p a week, or he can freeze it and use the money to keep our fire stations open.
“By axing 12 fire stations and 18 fire engines Boris is jeopardising the safety and security of Londoners.”
12 February 2013