Fight to stop London fire-stations being closed goes to the Commons

The battle to stop 17 London fire-stations closing and a third of the East End’s emergency cover being shut down is going to Parliament.

Labour’s Barry Gardiner is opening a half-hour debate in the Commons tomorrow (Fri), supported by East End MPs Jim Fitzpatrick and Rushanara Ali.

It follows a protest this week outside Whitechapel fire-station and a letter to London Mayor Boris Johnson.

The proposals would strip the East End, one of London’s most densely-populated areas, of 16 emergency crews, the letter points out.

Tower Hamlets has had nearly 6,000 emergency calls in the past 12 months alone, including 1,500 fires—by far the greatest number anywhere in London—and 1,800 specialist rescues.

“The high density housing makes the threat and potential loss of life much greater than in less densely populated areas,” the letter warns the Mayor. “It cannot be right that in the borough with the greatest number of fire calls in London you are proposing cutting the number of fire stations by a third.”

The letter was signed by the two East End MPs, London Assembly’s John Biggs and Tower Hamlets Labour Opposition group leader Joshua Peck.

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Rushanara Ali, whose constituency includes both Whitechapel and Bow fire-stations which are on the ‘hit list’ of 17 suggested for closure, is expected to address tomorrow’s Commons debate.

She told the Advertiser: “The Mayor’s proposals will see vital frontline fire-engines and firefighters being lost, which I find outrageous considering Tower Hamlets had by far the greatest number of fires in London last year. He seems to be taking unnecessary risk with people’s safety.”

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

Whitechapel and Bow each have two fire-engines 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 fire-stations were closed down.