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London Fire Brigade said today that 27 fire engines have been temporarily removed from fire stations across London as part of the Brigade’s contingency plan to prepare for a potential strike over firefighter pensions by the Fire Brigades’ Union (FBU).
The FBU is currently balloting its members to take national strike action over the Government’s reforms to the Firefighters’ Pension Scheme. The ballot opened on 18 July and closes on 29 August with the results being announced on that day or soon after. Based upon previous notice periods the first possible date for strike action could be Thursday, 5 September, however, it is not known at this time when any such action would be taken, nor the duration of any such action.
London Fire Commissioner, Ron Dobson, said:
“This dispute is between the FBU and Government, but as the national strike may involve London, we have a legal responsibility to prepare for the possibility of strike action in September.
“This is not a decision I have taken lightly and I am not presuming the ballot will result in a yes vote, but I need to ensure contingency plans are in place, which is why I’ve arranged for the temporary removal of 27 fire engines.
“I’d also like to point out that the dispute is completely separate to my Fifth London Safety Plan, which, amongst other things, proposes to close ten fire stations and reduce the number of fire engines by 14.”
All of the fire engines will come from two appliance stations, meaning all of London’s fire stations will continue to be available to provide a response to emergency incidents. Despite the temporary change to the number of fire engines in operation, the Brigade continues to seek to maintain its London-wide target attendance time of getting the first fire engine to the scene of an emergency within an average time of six minutes.
During a strike the 27 engines would be deployed at strategic locations across London and would be used to provide fire cover for the capital. The contingency fire service is provided by a contractor and is not intended to replicate the Brigade’s normal operational cover arrangements. The contractor will provide basic firefighting and some rescue work.The fire engines have been removed from the following fire stations:
The FBU’s dispute is with central government but has been registered with LFEPA as the Authority is the employer of London Fire Brigade staff.
Contingency fire service arrangements
The provision, known as ‘CapitalGuard’, is a contracted service providing up to 27 fire engines. It is intended to provide a reduced level of operational capability sufficient to fulfil the Brigade’s basic statutory duties. This means that the 27 fire engines will attend a limited range of incidents and that, in the first instance, the normal initial attendance to incidents will be just one fire engine.
LFEPA members discussed these arrangements at a meeting of the Appointments and Urgency Committee on Wednesday, 24 July – more here.
Previous industrial action and removing fire engines
The Brigade removed 27 fire engines during industrial action and firefighter strikes in 2010, when firefighters walked out over a dispute about changes to their working patterns.
The Brigade’s legal duty
In common with other UK fire and rescue services, the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority has a legal duty under the Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004 to provide a fire and rescue service. The Fire Authority also has a duty under Section 2 of the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 to plan for emergencies and that if an emergency occurs to take reasonable steps to make sure it is still able to continue to perform its functions.
What service would be provided during strike action?
The arrangements are not intended to replicate or replace what the Brigade does but gives, so far as is reasonably practicable, an acceptable level of contingency cover if the FBU strike. As part of the contingency arrangements a reduced level of firefighting services will be provided. The contractor will be able to provide firefighting and some rescue capabilities, and will be able to provide a response to road traffic collisions.
London Safety Plan
You can read about the Commissioner’s London Safety Plan on the Brigade’s website.