By Megan Welford
In an unusual move, the London Fire Authority voted last night against all the Fire Brigade Commissioner’s proposals to implement Mayor Boris Johnson’s cuts to the fire service.
In a vote of nine (multi-party) to eight (conservative), the Fire Authority voted against all station closures and all cuts to frontline staff, leaving the ball in the Mayor’s court.
The Mayor is expecting cuts of £48 million to the fire service budget over the next two years.
The Commissioner, or head of the Fire Brigade, Ron Dobson, had proposed a compromise of ten station closures instead of twelve, saving Clapham and New Cross, although Clapham was still to lose one engine of its two. But the Fire Authority (the political body that runs the Fire Brigade) voted against any cuts at all.
The Mayor responded combatively, saying: “I am disappointed that the Fire Authority has once again shirked their responsibilities to deliver a balanced budget, leaving the service in an increasingly precarious position. I am seeking advice so this can be rectified as quickly as possible and to provide financial and organisational stability for London’s fire service.”
Paul Embery of the London Fire Brigade Union said it was a legally moot point whether or not Boris Johnson had the power to overturn the Fire Authority’s decision.
Lambeth and Southwark Assembly Member Val Shawcross sits on the Fire Authority and voted against the Commissioner’s proposals. She told the Weekender: “We felt that the consultation showed really clearly that Londoners do not support the closures and cuts, particularly in the south.
“Lambeth had the best attended public meeting in the whole of London last month, with 200 people and a good cross-section of the community.”
She said that in his overall budget of £9 billion, the Mayor could afford to maintain the fire service as it is.
She said: “We’re not asking for more money, we’re asking to continue our existing services, especially where population is growing fast, such as in North Lambeth.”
She said the Mayor had taken Fire Brigade reserves of £50million and given it to the police during his last term, and cut council tax by 7p a week per household.
“He has cut the fire service to the bone, and there are no further cuts he can make without damaging frontline services.”