Poplar at risk of losing a fire engine in cost-cutting plan to save £11million
PUBLISHED: 13:13 25 November 2015 | UPDATED: 13:23 25 November 2015
Poplar is at risk of permanently losing one of its fire engines under plans that will result in firefighters taking longer to reach blazes in the borough.
The London Fire Brigade has set out proposals that would see 13 of the capital’s fire engines permanently axed in a bid to slash £11million from next year’s budget, the Advertiser can reveal.
Fire response times in Tower Hamlets would rise, according to the brigade’s own figures, and firefighters fear lives may be at risk.
“I would say that any increase in response times would jeopardise public safety,” said London Fire Brigades Union (FBU) regional secretary, Paul Embery.
“When you’re trapped in a fire, seconds count. And if you have to wait for a fire engine to arrive from further afield because your local engine has been taken out of service, that extra wait could be the difference between life and death.”
According to brigade’s own figures it will take an average of seven seconds longer for a fire engine to reach a blaze in Tower Hamlets if the engines are scrapped, and 27 seconds longer for a second engine to attend more serious fires.
The 13 engines, including Poplar’s, were temporarily taken out of service in August 2013 for use in the event of strike action by firefighters.
In June, just days before they were due to be returned to stations, Mayor of London Boris Johnson ordered they be left unused while plans to scrap them permanently were considered.
The Advertiser can reveal the head of the brigade has now recommended all 13 should be axed to balance the books.
The brigade says fire response “targets can continue to be comfortably met at a London level” without the engines.
London Fire Commissioner Ron Dobson said: “My priority when exploring how we can make these savings is to ensure we don’t compromise our service to Londoners.”
But Labour members of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority last Thursday put forward an alternative budget that would save the engines by implementing alternate crewing and ditching a £283,000 upgrade of the brigade’s website.
London Assembly Member Dr Fiona Twycross, Labour committee member, said: “There are other ways to make cuts other than deciding to cut 13 appliances. I think the public would want us to consider this very carefully.”
A decision is due on December 2.