Firefighters plan protest rally to stop 12 London fire stations being axed

MP Rushanara Ali's protest in October has helped save Whitechapel fire station which is still to los

MP Rushanara Ali's protest in October has helped save Whitechapel fire station which is still to lose half its crews - Credit: Archant

Firefighters from all over London are staging a rally on Monday to protest at the closure of 12 fire stations and reduced cover at 10 others—with London’s East End the hardest hit.

They are demonstrating next Monday at 1.30pm outside the London Fire Brigade headquarters just before the fire authority meets to discuss the cuts.

Politicians in east London are angry at Boris Johnson confirming plans to close Bow fire station—one of those being shut down—and axing half the emergency cover at Whitechapel.

The Mayor of London confirmed the cuts yesterday (Tues) when the Draft London Safety Plan was published, after months of speculation, with cuts of almost £29 million to the emergency service budget over the next two years.

Whitechapel was on the original list to be closed down, but it led to a campaign by the East End’s two MPs Rushanara Ali (pictured) and Jim Fitzpatrick and Labour members on Tower Hamlets council.

The anger, however, continues over the cuts, especially closing Bow fire station.

Tower Hamlets councillor Abdal Ullah said: “This is a disaster that will have a devastating impact.

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“Reducing fire-fighters in the East End will leave emergency services permanently stretched in an area with the highest number of fire emergencies in London.”

Bow loses both its fire-station in Parnell Road, next to Roman Road Market, and the police station in Bow Road.

Many of east London’s remaining tower blocks are in Bow, critics point out. Stretching times for responding to fires in these blocks will put lives at risk, councillors fear.

Tower Hamlets has the highest rate of emergencies by far, according to the Fire Brigades Union. Fire emergency cover in neighbouring Newham, Hackney and Waltham Forest is also being reduced with the closure of Silvertown and Kingsland fire-stations and scaling down at Leyton, Leytonstone and Chingford.

The proposals are seen by City Hall as “modernising” London’s emergency cover so that fire engines are located “where they are most needed rather than based on historical factors.”

The Brigade is called to only half as many fires compared to a decade ago, it maintains, with a third fewer incidents in homes.

Cover is being reduced in Inner London because there are fewer factories and the docks have shut, the Brigade insists.

People are also said to be moving out to the suburbs. But Tower Hamlets’ population is rising because of redevelopment in Docklands and along the Lea River—including Bow and Old Ford where the local fire station in Parnell Road is on the hit list.

Fire Brigade Commissioner Ron Dobson said: “We need to make savings—these cannot be found without significant changes. Our response times are still among the best in the country.”

The protesting firefighters rally outside Fire Brigade headquarters in Southwark at 1.30pm on Monday, half-hour before the London Fire Authority debates the cuts. A final decision is likely on June 20, following public consultations.