Transcript of my exchange with Sadiq on Fire Brigade funding

2017/4525 – Fire Brigade funding

Andrew Dismore AM: Do you consider it would be helpful for all members of the Assembly to support you in your efforts to persuade the Government to help fund the additional costs facing the London Fire Brigade in light of the Grenfell Tower fire?

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London): Thank you, Chair. I have been very disappointed by the Government’s response to my request to provide additional resources to ensure public safety in London. Let me be clear. Without increased funding, it will be difficult to improve and maintain the Fire Brigade’s essential work to protect London and Londoners in the future, the potential consequences of which do not bear considering. I am grateful that LFEPA agreed at its meeting on 5 October to support mine and officer’s efforts in lobbying for additional resources for the Authority. It would be helpful if all members of the Assembly supported my efforts to persuade the Government to help fund the additional costs facing the London Fire Brigade following the terrible Grenfell Tower fire. I would once again, hopefully with the Assembly’s unanimous support, call upon the Government to act urgently on this matter to ensure the safety of London and Londoners both now and in the future. It remains vital that we provide LFEPA with the funding it needs when we agree next year’s budget.

Andrew Dismore AM: Thank you for that answer. Does the Home Secretary’s rejection of your request for additional funding after the Grenfell Tower fire not show her and her Conservative Fire Authority colleagues completely misunderstand Fire Authority and GLA finances, especially the non-availability of already earmarked reserves which are for other projects, and without increased funding from the Government, how can the London Fire Brigade provide the level of fire cover Londoners need and expect long term, especially bearing in mind the extra demands that have been identified as a result of the Grenfell Tower fire?

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London): It is very difficult, and it shows a lack of understanding how earmarked reserves work. As it is, because of the decision by the Home Secretary not to fund the additional appliances that the London Fire Commissioner says we need, costing £6 million, this year we have had to use reserves to pay for that. You can only use reserves once, and the finances of the LFB in the years going forward is a source of concern to LFEPA, I know, and I am hoping that the Home Secretary, who is now in charge of the Fire Service funding, reconsiders her decision or at the very least lobbies it up to the Chancellor. I have seen no evidence of this Home Secretary lobbying this Chancellor for extra resources for the Fire Service or even the Police.

Andrew Dismore AM: At the Fire Authority meeting last month, the Conservative Members refused – refused – to support our very modest proposal that the Authority supports the efforts by the Mayor and officers in lobbying for additional resources for the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority. Do you think the Conservative Members should not reflect on their refusal to support your efforts to get the resources the London Fire Brigade needs, because serious cuts to the London Fire Brigade are potentially the consequence given that without extra central government help, the Fire Brigade’s worsening funding gap will be at least £21.5 million by 2021/2022; and do you agree that Londoners will then clearly know that the blame lies with the Conservative Party, just as they were to blame for the last round of draconian cuts on a similar scale that closed ten fire stations, removed 14 fire appliances, two fire rescue units and cut 552 firefighter posts?

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London): I think it is an example of politicians choosing party loyalty over public safety, and then they laugh about it. They have the audacity to laugh as they make cuts to our Fire Service. That is the Conservatives in 2017 in London.

Andrew Dismore AM: I agree. Thank you.