Analysis has shown that fire brigade response times have gone up in over 370 London wards since the Mayor forced through the closure of 10 London fire stations in January this year. Average response times for London have increased from 5:18 to 5:30 for the first fire engine response with the second response time also increasing from 6:28 to 6:51.
Initial analysis of the figures provided to Assembly Members show that Londoners in 3 Hackney wards and 3 Waltham Forest wards also now have to wait more than the six-minute target time before help arrives with response times increasing by up to 1 minute 56 seconds in some areas of Hackney; 1 minute 29 seconds in areas on Islington; and 54 seconds in Waltham Forest. In Hackney, Kingsland fire stations was closed, as was Clerkenwell fire station in Islington, and Waltham Forest had 3 fire engines removed from its fire service. In total response times have increased in 13 out of 19 Hackney wards, 10 out of 16 Islington wards and 11 out of 20 Waltham Forest wards.
Since the fire station closures in January which also saw 14 fire engines removed from service, a total of 37 London wards have seen first response times increase by over a minute compared with 2012/13 data. The number of areas where response times have increased shows that despite assurances from the Mayor, his cuts to the fire service have increased the threat to public safety.
The figures also include areas where 13 additional fire engines have been removed in order to cover potential strikes, further degrading response times. I have called for these appliances to be returned outside of strike periods to ensure full cover across the capital.
Fires can take hold in seconds that’s why any increase in response times can be so dangerous. As a result of Boris Johnson’s decision to close ten fire stations and with the removal of a further 13 fire engines, even when they are not needed for strike cover, we have seen response times rise in over half of the capital’s wards including significant increases in Hackney, Islington and Waltham Forest.
Londoners will be deeply concerned that since the closures it could take significantly longer for a fire engine to reach their home. These latest figures show is that in most of London’s wards it will now take longer to get to fires than it did last year, that is unacceptable.
The Mayor has an important duty to protect the public. He needs to ask himself whether closing ten fire stations and removing 27 fire engines is really the best way to achieve that. Given the jump in response times since the fire station closures, it is very fortunate that we have not seen an increase in serious incidents as a result.
A breakdown of the latest London Fire Service response time data can be found here.
In January the Mayor forced through the closure of ten London fire stations against widespread opposition: Belsize, Bow, Clerkenwell, Downham, Kingsland, Knightsbridge, Silvertown, Southwark, Westminster and Woolwich. As part of these closures 14 fire appliances were removed from service. Subsequently, a further 13 fire appliances have been removed from service to act as cover in case of any strike action.