London Fire Brigade

Fire Authority to decide on Budget proposals following public consultation

09 February 2016

The London Fire Commissioner has today published a report on the Brigade's budget for 2016/17, which will be discussed by the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority on Wednesday, 17 February.

The report recommends the permanent removal of the 13 fire engines that have been out of service for the past two and a half years and reinvest some of the savings into increasing the number of staff available to crew fire rescue units.

Additional savings

Additional savings would also be used to fund a one off investment in equipment for the homes of the most vulnerable, to help reduce the number of fires and fire deaths.

Initiatives include installing sprinklers, telecare and flame retardant bedding in the homes of those most at risk from fire.

Last year over 90 per cent of people who died in fires were over 50 and over half had some mental health issues too.

The Brigade would also use some of the surplus to make a one off payment into the Local Government Pension Scheme in order to reduce the amount that needs to be paid in by the Brigade each subsequent year - reducing future budget pressures.

The 13 fire engines

The 13 fire stations that had one of their two fire engines removed in August 2013 were Chelsea, Ealing, Erith, Forest Hill, Holloway, Old Kent Road, Plaistow, Poplar, Romford, Shoreditch, Stratford, Wandsworth, and Willesden.

London Fire Commissioner, Ron Dobson, said: "The consultation process is extremely important and I thank everyone who took part. I have been involved in every public meeting and have listened carefully to the views of everyone that has contributed.

"The 13 fire engines have been out of service for over two and a half years and that impact has seen us maintain our response within our average attendance time targets of six minutes for a first fire engine and eight minutes for a second.

"I appreciate that the removal of fire engines is not popular and but I maintain that in my professional opinion this is the correct way to balance our budget.

"Alternate crewing is an option with merit which is worth exploring further, but I consider the proposal to alternate crews Fire Rescue Units to be operationally unworkable at this time and therefore can not recommend this option.

"Fire engines do not stop fires happening - proactive prevention work does and under my proposals we will be able to provide better levels of protection to those most vulnerable members of our society who are disproportionally dying in avoidable fires."

Decreases further financial pressures

The Commissioner was also keen to highlight that his plans decrease further financial pressures on the Brigade by not using one off payments to plug budget gaps.

The report argues that the Commissioner's approach reduces uncertainty, provides future budget planning and maintains robust reserves.

Members of London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority approved two proposals for consultation both of which would ensure that no fire stations close and no firefighters would be made compulsorily redundant. Publication of the new report follows an eight week consultation which saw just under 1,500 responses.

Notes to editors

On 14 August 2013, 27  fire engines were temporarily removed from service as part of the Brigade’s legal duty to have a contingency arrangement in the event of strike action by the Fire Brigades Union. As a result of the Fifth London Safety Plan  changes, 14 fire engines were permanently removed leaving 13 current engines as part of the contingency. The 13 fire engines are from two appliance stations and any plans will not result in the station closing.

The Commissioner’s recommendation would see an increase of four seconds for a first fire engine (5mins 27secs) and 18 seconds for a second fire engine (6mins 45 secs) based on modelled performance after the Fifth London Safety Plan.

Alternate crewing means that in stations where there is a fire engine and a special appliance such as an aerial ladder platform there would be one crew for both appliances.

The Brigade has been asked to make a total of £11.5m savings for the coming financial year. £5.1m has already been identified from departmental savings.

On 15 June 2015, the Mayor issued a Direction to the Authority instructing it not to redeploy the 13 fire engines back into service until a decision had been taken on the Authority’s budget for 2016/17. In light of the FBU suspending strike action until at least June 2017 London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority wrote to the Mayor to ask him to amend his direction and release two fire engines back into service. The Mayor has decided to not to change his direction of 15 June.

The consultation closed on Monday, 1 February.