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Fear over cuts of a-third in East End's emergency fire cover

PUBLISHED: 14:40 23 October 2012

Whitechapel fire-station

Whitechapel fire-station

Carmen Valino

Emergency fire cover in London's overcrowded East End may be cut by a third if massive cuts go ahead in the New Year.

Two of the East End’s six fire-stations, Whitechapel and Bow, are on a ‘hit list’ of 17 across London which are being suggested for possible closure in budget reductions for 2013-15.

But MP Jim Fitzpatrick, a former Fire Brigade Union official, has vowed to fight the cuts in Parliament.

“We will do all we can to defend any community to prevent fire-station closures,” the Poplar & Limehouse MP told the Advertiser.

“The overcrowded East End with its many vulnerable properties is at high risk—extra minutes reaching a fire could be critical. Any closures would be worrying.”

The London fire authority has drawn up the list for debate on November 22, ahead of the government revealing in December the size of next year’s budget. It has been told to save £65 million over two years, so senior brigade managers have compiled the list to be ready.

A Fire Brigade spokesman said: “We are facing the need to make savings like every other public service, but full details will not be known until at least December when the Government announces its grant.

“We expect to maintain our current target response times, but no decisions about possible fire station closures have yet been taken.”

Current response times are the first fire crew to arrive at an emergency within six minutes, a second crew within eight.

But the Fire Brigades Union fears cuts of this scale “cannot be reached without an impact on public safety.”

Its London regional secretary, Paul Embery, said: “It isn’t just about the speed of response, but about the weight of response. Making sure there are adequate resources to deal with incidents as they develop is just as crucial.”

Whitechapel and Bow fire stations each have two fire tenders operated round-the-clock by four watches, nine firefighters on each watch with two crew managers and a watch manager.

That would mean losing nearly 100 firefighters if both closed, leaving just four remaining fire-stations in the East End—Bethnal Green, Poplar, Millwall and Shadwell which is undergoing redevelopment.

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