MPs Jim Fitzpatrick and Rushanara Ali slam ‘back door’ plans to privatise fire service

Plans to change government regulations to let emergency services be privatised have been condemned by two MPs in London’s East End in the Fire Brigade’s busiest area.

The “back door” plans were revealed in letter from a government minister to the Commons committee that looks into reforming regulations.

They show proposals to “enable fire and rescue authorities to contract out services to a suitable provider.”

This would mean London’s 5,811 firefighters could be employed and its 112 fire-stations could be run by a private company, the MPs fear.

Poplar & Limehouse MP Jim Fitzpatrick, an ex-firefighter himself, said: “This letter shows the huge risks that ministers are preparing to take with this vital public service.

“Fire and rescue is an essential service which we all depend on for our safety and sometimes our lives.

“Our experience with last summer’s Olympics in east London was a lesson that private firms often cost more and deliver less when they bid to take over public services.”

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Fire minister Brandon Lewis’s letter was a bid to push changes through the little-known Regulatory Reform Committee to avoid full Parliamentary scrutiny, claimed Bethnal Green & Bow MP Rushanara Ali.

She said: “People need to have confidence that fire-fighting is being run for public protection—not company profit.

“Privatising parts of the service has already brought near-disaster, like AssetCo given the contract to maintain the fire engines, but failed to do so properly.

“When the company collapsed, it could have lost the fire-engines altogether to its creditors.”

The Regulatory Reform committee scrutinises government proposals for reforming legislation, which opponents claim is being used to push privatisation through the ‘back door’.

The proposed regulation chances come in the wake of the Mayor of London’s proposals to shut 12 fire-stations, including Whitechapel and Silvertown in east London, and reduce coverage at others such as Bow.