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A public consultation on how London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority can make £6.4m of budget savings for 2016/17 starts today.
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. Members also agreed to stand down the Brigade’s contingency arrangements in light of the Fire Brigades Union’s decision to suspend their strike action over a dispute with the Government on pensions. Standing down the contingency arrangement saves London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority £1.7m and reduces the budget gap from £8.1m to £6.4m.
The main difference between the options is around the 13 fire engines that have been out of service for two years as part of Brigade’s strike contingency arrangements.
Option A is the proposal preferred by the majority of members of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority. It recommends putting the 13 fire engines back into service but making savings by establishing alternate crewing at stations with some special appliances. This option would see two fire rescue units , five aerial appliances and two operational support units being alternately crewed.
Option B is recommended by the Commissioner of London Fire Brigade. It recommends the permanent removal of the 13 fire engines and reinvest some of the savings into increasing the number of staff available to crew fire rescue units.
The Brigade has continued to meet its London-wide average attendance time target of six minutes for a first fire engine and eight minutes for a second while the13 appliances have been out of service. If the 13 fire engines were returned to service, it is believed that this would improve average London-wide attendance times by around four seconds for the first engine and by around 18 seconds for the second fire engine.
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.
The proposals are now subject of a consultation that lasts eight weeks to collect the views of Londoners and key stakeholders. Four public meetings will be held across London and for the first time the Brigade will organise online public meetings.
Chairman of London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority Gareth Bacon AM said:
“The consultation is a chance for Londoners to have their say on our budget proposals and how the authority can save £6.4m. Over the next eight weeks we’ll be holding public meetings and talking to a variety of stakeholders to get their opinions. If you want your voice heard I urge everyone to visit our website and tell us what they think.”
Last year the number of fires was below 20,000 for the first time since records for Greater London began in 1966 and fire deaths have steadily declined since the 1980s. In 1987, there were 28.5 fire deaths per million residents compared to 3.4 per million in 2014.
Notes for 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 preferred option 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. The two proposals were agreed to be put for public consultation at a London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority meeting on Wednesday, 2 December.
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.