letter for publication: Fire Brigade faces Government underfunding after Grenfell fire
The Home Secretary’s refusal so far to assist with the substantial extra costs the London Fire Brigade now faces as a consequence of the Grenfell Tower fire is symptomatic of the Conservative Government’s failure in its primary duty to protect the public.
If their austerity policy, which has done so much damage, continues unchecked, then not only we will see another £400 million in cuts to the police with police station closures and fewer officers at a time of rising crime, we will also see the Fire Brigade facing an increasing budget gap.
As part of her initial assessment after the Grenfell fire, the Fire Commissioner has identified a shortfall in what the Fire Brigade needs, including 3 extended height aerial ladders, 2 drones , 1200 extended duration breathing apparatus sets, and other specialised kit (which together will cost £6 million) , as well as restoring the previous Conservative Mayor Boris Johnson’s cut of 27 Fire Safety Inspection Officers.
The London Fire Brigade is potentially facing a growing shortfall of £25.5m by 2021/22, which is of a similar magnitude to the cuts forced through by Boris Johnson, who closed 10 fire stations, and removed 14 fire engines and over 500 firefighter posts. Further cuts to the Fire Brigade on such a scale cannot be contemplated without grave risks to Londoners and their homes.
Mayor Sadiq Khan has rightly told the Fire Commissioner to get on with buying this equipment as most of the requirements are ‘not off the shelf’ and have a lead in time, but the Government must now see reason and start to put in the resources London’s police and fire services need to keep the capital safe.
Andrew Dismore AM
Labour London Assembly Member for Barnet and Camden