New data from the London Fire Brigade has revealed that in the first full year after Boris Johnson forced the closure of 10 London fire stations, fire engine response times increased in two thirds of London’s wards.
The analysis of full year data for 2014/15 from Labour’s London Assembly Fire Spokesperson, Fiona Twycross AM, found that response times went up in 401 of London’s 654 wards when compared with the previous year, prior to the Mayor’s closure of 10 fire stations and the scrapping of 14 fire engines.
On average Londoners in 223 of the capital’s wards are now waiting longer than the six minute response time target for a fire engine to arrive, with 275 wards also missing the eight minute target for a second fire engine to be on site.
Ms Twycross warned that with the Fire Brigade looking to scrap 13 additional fire engines in the next year, response times could get even worse increasing the threat to public safety. The additional 13 fire engines in question were initially removed from service in order to cover potential strikes but the Mayor is now proposing to permanently scrap the engines as part of his cost cutting drive which will see £13.2m cut from the London Fire Brigade budget this year.
Across the capital average response times for the first fire engine have increased by 13 seconds with second response times up by 25 seconds compared with the previous year. In some boroughs the response times are far worse, for example, in the Royal Docks ward in Newham where it took on average 8 minutes 2 seconds for a fire engine to reach a fire, up 2 minutes 53 seconds on the year before the cuts.
The new response time data comes after a number of high profile fires in recent weeks including a serious fire in Camden where an elderly man died after it took the LFB over 13 minutes to reach the scene, more than twice the target attendance time. The fire was less than a mile from the Belsize fire station Boris Johnson forced closed in 2014.
London Assembly Labour Group Fire Spokesperson, Fiona Twycross AM, said:
“Boris Johnson promised that his fire station cuts wouldn’t hurt but it’s clear lives are being put at risk.
“As a result of his cuts and fire station closures Londoners are now waiting longer for fire engines to arrive. The tragedy is that fires only take seconds to take hold and spread. There is little doubt that any increase in response times puts lives at risk.
“The Mayor’s primary job is to ensure the safety of Londoners, it’s clear his cuts have already had a major impact across the capital. Axing another 13 fire engines would only exacerbate the increase in response times and make it even harder for the LFB to protect the capital.”