Biggs challenges Boris at London Assembly over fire-station closures

Boris Johnson was challenged today by London Assembly budget chairman John Biggs on his refusal to reverse the cuts to fire services in east London.

Three fire-stations are due to close down, Bow, Silvertown and Kinsland-Dalston with another seven across London.

Other fire-stations face losing crews, such as the busy Whitechapel and two in Waltham Forest.

Biggs, who represents east London at City Hall, took the lead in a heated debate during Mayor’s Question Time when he told Boris that the East End is seeing the capital’s largest population growth, where the three fire-stations under threat covered an area of a-million people.

“I asked the Mayor if he believed that London has too many fire-engines at present,” he said afterwards. “The Mayor, unsurprisingly, avoided answering the question—despite these closures being of considerable concern to residents.”

He accused the Mayor of failing to address “the serious concerns of Londoners.”

Seven local authorities last month backed Tower Hamlets council which had threatened legal action in August over the closure threats.

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The authorities sent a joint letter to the Community Secretary urging Eric Pickles to overrule the Mayor’s decision.

The closures would put people’s lives at risk, they said. London was densely populated and needed local, reliable emergency services to keep its people, businesses and visitors safe, the town halls urged.

Boris’s proposals mean the loss of 14 fire engines and 552 fire-fighters across London.

The councils argue that his decision ignores the fire risks posed by tall buildings, deprivation status of inner urban areas like the East End and other factors such as concentrations of social and student housing, as well as tourist attractions including Brick Lane, Tower Bridge and the Tower of London.