Hundreds reject plans to axe engine at Willesden fire station
PUBLISHED: 11:29 12 February 2016 | UPDATED: 11:39 12 February 2016
Hundreds have rejected plans by the Mayor of London to cut Willesden's fleet of fire engines in half following concerns that scrapping vehicles would drive up emergency response times.
More than 70 per cent of respondents to a public consultation organised by London Fire Brigade rejected Boris Johnson’s proposals to axe one of two remaining vehicles at Willesden fire station in Pound Lane.
Four out of five respondents to the two-month consultation voiced concerns that decommissioning the vehicles in a bid to slash £11.5 million from London Fire Brigade budgets in 2016-17 could affect fire crews’ ability to maintain emergency response services.
The overwhelming majority of the 1,478 people who responded backed alternative plans put forward by Andrew Dismore, London Assembly Member, which would keep Willesden’s two engines in service by changing the way some engines are crewed.
Last December, Navin Shah, Labour London Assembly member for Brent and Harrow, joined forces with Dawn Butler, Labour MP for Brent Central, to petition against plans to axe the engine following fears the proposals could see a repeat of fire station closures and staff cuts in 2012 which saw average vehicle response times increase in 401 of London’s 654 wards.
Following the publication of the consultation outcome on Thursday, Mr Shah said: “With 70 per cent of Londoners against these plans, and with strong and fully costed alternatives on the table, it is time the Mayor listened to what Londoners are telling him and backed down from this plan to axe yet more fire engines.
“Removing a fire engine from Willesden is wholly opposed by both local firefighters and residents.
“I will continue to speak out against these cuts which threaten to put lives at risk.”
Despite the results of the consultation showing only 18 per cent of respondents backed the London fire commissioner’s proposals to scrap 13 engines by the end of 2017, Mr Shah fears the Mayor could force through the plans by issuing a legally binding Mayoral Direction.
A spokeswoman for the Mayor said: “Frontline services and the safety of Londoners remain the Mayor’s top priority, and after contrasting the strengths of the options set out, the Mayor strongly supports the recommendation of the Fire Commissioner.
“The London Fire Brigade continues to do an excellent job, with fire deaths in the capital halved in the last five years and the number of fires at its lowest since records began. In the two-and-half years since these 13 appliances have been held back from the frontline, response time targets have continued to be comfortably met. The savings achieved by their permanent removal would allow more money to be invested in frontline officers.”
The results of the consultation will be considered at a meeting of the London Fire and Emergency planning Authority (LFEPA) on February 17.