Today marked the day that Boris’ reckless fire stations closures and budget cuts to London’s Fire Service came into effect.
I was humbled to join local residents and campaigners at Clerkenwell Fire Station to oppose the Mayor’s cuts and reflect upon the impact that these closures will have on the safety of Londoners and on the livelihoods of many firemen and women who have lost their jobs.
Several protests took place across London, and I joined firefighters and many others at Camberwell Fire Station at 8.30am to continue my support of the campaign against Boris’ cuts, which took effect from 9am, meaning that, Londonwide, there are now 10 fewer fire stations, 14 fewer fire engines and 552 fewer firefighters than yesterday.
The full list of stations axed includes Clerkenwell and Kingsland in my constituency, as well as Belsize, Bow, Downham, Knightsbridge, Silvertown, Southwark, Westminster and Woolwich, as well as the removal of fire engines from Chingford, Leyton and Leytonstone in my constituency and Hayes, Peckham and Whitechapel.
The cuts follow a lengthy campaign to stop the Mayor’s plans which originally included over 18 fire stations and 32 fire engines. The cuts are being made to fund Boris Johnson’s penny a day cut to his share of the council tax for each household. Last year the Mayor was presented with fully-costed proposals to maintain all fire services across London, but he chose to ignore this and ignore Londoners.
Today’s demonstration, which saw hundreds of people out on the streets in protest, shows the strength of feeling amongst the local community against these cuts.
What worries me most is that Boris Johnson’s decision to close these stations and axe the fire engines and firefighters will lead to significantly increased response times to incidents across London. In some areas it will now take nearly two minutes longer for a fire engine to arrive on scene and, as we know, every second counts to save property and to save lives.
I want to pay tribute and to say a personal thank you to the firefighters who are now unemployed, despite putting their lives on the line on a daily basis to keep Londoners safe and to save Londoners’ lives. They truly are heroes and deserve to be applauded for their dedication and professionalism. It is devastating for them, their families and for local residents that many brave firemen and women have now lost their jobs.
Regrettably, Boris has not listened to local residents and is forcing these cuts through. In response to his consultation, an overwhelming 94% of Londoners said they do not support his plans, yet he went ahead with them anyway. It is also sad that he cannot swallow his pride and come down to say a personal thank you to the firefighters that have served London so well for such a long time. He should be thoroughly ashamed and, more importantly, held to account come 2016 for these reckless closures that will put Londoners’ safety at risk, including many of my constituents in Hackney, Islington and Waltham Forest.
Solidarity to all firefighters across London. You truly are the unsung heroes of our city.