Safety fears raised as fire engine at Willesden station is axed

Navin Shah with Dawn Butler and Labour councillors outside Willesden Fire Station (Pic: Adam Thomas)

Navin Shah with Dawn Butler and Labour councillors outside Willesden Fire Station (Pic: Adam Thomas) - Credit: Archant

Fire chiefs have been given the green light to scrap an engine at its station in Willesden despite huge opposition and fears for people’s safety.

London Fire Commissioner Ron Dobson. Picture: Polly Hancock

London Fire Commissioner Ron Dobson. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Archant

London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority (LFEPA) approved the controversial plans to plug an £11.5m black hole in the London Fire Brigade’s (LFB) budget.

Two proposals were put to public consultation with 82 per cent opposed to scrapping the engines and 18 percent supporting it.

The final decision was made by Boris Johnson, Mayor of London.

Fire response times in Brent will increase as a result, according to the brigade’s own figures.

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It will take five seconds longer on average for a first engine to reach a blaze and there will be an average increase of 37 seconds for a second engine to reach more serious fires.

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 at the station in Pound Lane.

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Mr Shah said at the time: “Removing a fire engine from Willesden is wholly opposed by both local firefighters and residents.”

The LFB said the savings made will be reinvested into increasing the number of staff available to crew fire rescue units.

The approved budget also includes a one off investment in fire prevention equipment for the homes of the most vulnerable such as sprinklers, telecare systems and flame retardant bedding and a payment into the Local Government Pension Scheme in order reduce future budget pressures on the Brigade.

Ron Dobson, London Fire Commissioner Ron, who agreed with the decision to decommission the engines, said: “The 13 fire engines have been out of service for over two and a half years but we have continued to achieve our response time targets of on average six minutes for a first fire engine and eight minutes for a second to attend incidents.”

He said the budget will reduce future financial pressures on the Brigade by not using one off payments to plug budget gaps adding the approach “reduces uncertainty, contributes to future budget planning and maintains robust reserves.”

Paul Embery, Fire Brigade Union’s regional secretary for London, said: “We are really disappointed by the decision. There has been a number of incidents recently where people have died in fires following delayed responses by the London Fire Brigade. These are directly attributable to the huge cuts that have taken place in the last two years. The brigade is spread very thinly at the moment. It is therefore completely reckless to plough on with further cuts.

“Lives are being lost. This madness has got to stop.”

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