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Axing Willesden fire engine ‘won’t keep Londoners safe in terror attack’ claim

PUBLISHED: 07:30 13 January 2016 | UPDATED: 09:17 13 January 2016

London Fire Commissioner Ron Dobson. Picture: Polly Hancock

London Fire Commissioner Ron Dobson. Picture: Polly Hancock

Polly Hancock

London’s fire chief has claimed axing a Willesden engine will have little impact, even in a terror attack, because it has not been used for two years.

London Fire Brigade (LFB) commissioner Ron Dobson made the comments at a public meeting at Brent Civic Centre, Engineers Way, Wembley, on Monday night.

The LFB must fill an £11.5million black hole in its budget and is consulting on decommissioning 13 fire engines.

Residents and Brent councillors questioned a panel made up of Conservative, Labour and Green Party London Assembly (LA) members about two options laid out in the consultation on the LFB’s budget for 2016 and 2017 – one being the axing of 13 engines.

Navin Shah, Labour LA member for Brent and Harrow, said fire engine response times were increasing. He called the axing of engines a “radical and risky move”, saying: “Ten wards in Brent have seen increases in attendance times. From those wards, Willesden Green has seen an increase of 36 seconds for the first fire engine attendance, and two minutes 55 seconds for the second fire engine’s attendance time.”

But Mr Dobson disputed this, saying he didn’t see any “future attendance impacts”. He said: “Option B recommended by me is the recommendation of the permanent removal of 13 fire engines currently out of service and have been out of service since August 2013. I suggest reinvesting some of that money.”

Jack Welby was one of several residents to mention the terror attacks in Paris in November.

He said: “If there are similar attacks in London, which is a possibility, this plan does not cover the security and safety of Londoners.”

Mr Dobson dismissed the remark, saying it was a “different issue”, and firefighters needed to be trained to deal with terror attacks.

The commissioner rejected option A due to a lack of staff, which would see the engines put back into service. The necessary savings would be made by establishing “alternate crewing” – where a fire station’s crew has control of one fire engine and one specialist vehicle.

Mr Dobson said this option means the service could only take one call at a time because one vehicle would have to be left at the station. But he admitted that axing the engines would mean 188 job losses, compared with 124 if option A was put in place.

All members of the panel admitted that “neither option is ideal”.

The consultation is online at: london-fire.gov.uk/consultation-2016-2017.asp or call 0800 689 3489 for a hard copy.

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