Dismore raises impact of Conservative cuts on the Fire Brigade
At today’s London Assembly Mayor’s Question Time on the GLA’s budget, Andrew Dismore AM, Labour London Assembly member for Barnet and Camden, raised the impact of the Conservative Government and former Mayor’s cuts on the Fire Brigade.
Mr Dismore asked the Mayor:
‘The London Fire Brigade’s role is becoming more complex and demanding, with rapidly changing emergency, regulatory, resilience and community duties. How does your budget enable the Brigade to deliver all these capabilities?
‘The London Fire Brigade are currently expected to find almost £25 million of savings by 2022/23, this at a time of a change in the trend of fire deaths which are now rising and additional demands because of the Grenfell Tower fire. Are you confident the Brigade will be able to maintain operational effectiveness in the absence of the Government restoring the cuts they have made and are continuing to make in the fire service?
‘The fire stations closed by Boris Johnson have cost the Brigade £2 million on repairs and security from when they were closed until their sale, not including the huge costs of the former HQ on Albert Embankment for which the LFB is still responsible and the ongoing cost of £7,500 per month for closed and unsold Clerkenwell. Apart from the impact on fire safety do you think the former Mayor took this expense into account when 10 cutting stations, 552 firefighter jobs, 324 support staff and 12 fire engines; and what is the cost of restoring a number of his proposed cuts after Grenfell, for example the 27 fire safety inspection posts?
‘The Fire Brigade has a unique position of trust among London’s communities. How will your budget help LFB expand its outreach work with young people and vulnerable Londoners; and in particular will you look at expanding the Fire Cadets scheme to other boroughs so that more London young people have the chance to participate?’
The Mayor said that their role in terrorist attacks can be added to the list. He is concerned about the funding gap. We are ok for the next couple of years, but there are pension and inflation pressures. Grenfell means that we need to spend £6 million more on equipment and £6 million a year on running costs. He doubts the former Mayor looked at the details or the evidence. The LFB are working flat out and it is difficult to identify further savings. Then we are also addressing the needs of the public inquiry and the welfare of staff. Filling the firefighter vacancies will help morale. The mayor said he was incredibly proud of the Fire Cadet scheme, who do remarkable work and the enthusiasm of the cadets. Outreach work is helping with visits to schools and community groups as part of the fire prevention role. It is right to recognise the high esteem in which London Firefighters are held.