Emotions run high at public meeting on proposed closure of Bow fire station

Residents vote against cuts to fire services in Tower Hamlets

Residents vote against cuts to fire services in Tower Hamlets - Credit: Archant

Angry residents vented their frustration at the proposed closure of Bow fire Station, at an emotional public meeting last night.

Concerned attendees filled the pews at St Paul’s Church in Bow to question plans, which could see them lose the Parnell Road station, its two fire engines, and the further loss of one of two appliances at Whitechapel fire station.

The proposals are designed to shave £45million from the London Fire Brigade’s budget over the next two years.

The brigade’s Deputy Commissioner, Rita Dexter, believes the cuts would increase call-out times in Bow by an average of three to four minutes, but Gordon Fielden of the London Fire Brigade Union argued stretching fewer engines further could potentially add an additional three minutes to Dexter’s estimates.

“It will come as no surprise that professional fire fighters completely reject these plans,” he said.

One resident, Gilbert Eruchalu, spoke of how his life was saved by the service last year, saying: “I was pulled out of my building when it was set on fire and I was asleep inside. An extra three minutes would have spelt doom for me. They have to explore other means - there has to be another way.”

Others at the meeting argued high-density living justified greater fire coverage in the borough, and they jeered and heckled Ms Dexter’s attempts to answer their questions as emotions ran high at times.

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But she defended the current proposals and said: “We’ve saved £60million over the last four years but need to save another £45m over the next two years. We have done this up until now by cutting what we call ‘back office’ in order to protect the front line, but there isn’t any more back office to cut.”

John Biggs, who represents Tower Hamlets as London Assembly member for City and East and is planning to stand as Tower Hamlets Mayor next year, said: “I’m against these cuts, especially in my constituency. I hope I never have to phone for a fire engine but, if I ever have to, I want it to be there quickly.”

The Labour politician blamed Tory London Mayor Boris Johnson for the proposed cuts.

Rushanara Ali, Bethnal Green and Bow MP, said: “This is not about politics, it’s about lives and safety. I want Rita [Dexter] to take these views back and look at the evidence. Treat this consultation and these people with the respect that they deserve.”

The public consultation ends on Monday. To have your say, visit www.london-fire.gov.uk/lsp5.