Westminster Fire Station at Victoria near Pimlico Facing Closure
By westlondon | Tuesday, January 15, 2013, 14:43
Westminster Fire Station may be closed despite the Borough reporting some of the highest number of fires in London. The Station is located in Greycoat Place, Victoria, only a stones throw from Pimlico. On the afternoon of Friday 11 January the Commissioner of the London Fire Brigade published his proposals for the Draft Fifth London Safety Plans. These outline how the Brigade will ensure the safety of Londoners over the next three years and will allow savings of £28.8m over the next two years while still maintaining existing response time targets. He proposes that twelve fire stations should close: Belsize, Bow, Clapham, Clerkenwell, Downham, Kingsland, Knightsbridge, New Cross Silvertown, Southwark, Westminster and Woolwich. Seven fire stations that currently have two fire engines will have one fire engine, and four stations will gain a fire engine. He has said publicly that the Brigade attended half as many fires compared to a decade ago, and there were a third fewer house fires than a decade ago. In total, there has been almost a third fewer incidents altogether. The Commissioner has promised that the Brigade will maintain its existing average target response time of getting its first fire engine to an emergency within six minutes and the second fire engine, if needed, within eight minutes. He stated that this is amongst the fastest target response time of any emergency service in the country and almost twice as fast as some other brigades. The plans are a response to the changing needs of London and will help improve response times in outer London Boroughs. Under the proposals, the Commissioner believes it would be possible to make these changes without making any operational firefighters compulsorily redundant. The Westminster Labour Group which opposed the loss of the Westminster Fire Station says that up to 520 firefighters across the London Fire Brigade could lose their jobs by 2015.
Ron Dobson, Commissioner of the London Fire Brigade, said: "Like virtually every other public service, the Brigade needs to make savings. In the last four years, we have cut £52m without reducing frontline services. Additional savings cannot be found without making significant changes to how we keep London safe. In the last decade, demand for the Brigade's service has changed dramatically and it's time to reflect that in how our fire stations, engines and staff are organised."
"Having spent 33 years as a firefighter serving the capital I know how important it is to respond to incidents as quickly as possible and I have every intention of maintaining our current response time targets for first and second fire engines. With all the work we do to prevent fires happening, and response times that are still amongst the best in the country, I am confident these savings can be made while keeping London safe."
The plans have met with considerable resistance. In November 2011 Sir Malcolm Rifkind, MP for Kensington voiced his concerns with Boris Johnson. The Mayor's reply states that the required savings target for 2013/14 is £29.5m and the "London Fire Commissioner has said that, despite the savings expected, he is committed to keeping targets for how quickly fire engines get to incidents – which are quicker than both the London Ambulance Service and the Metropolitan Police Service".
Following the announcement of the proposed closures Stephen Knight, who serves on the London Fire Authority said:
"These proposed cuts will be opposed by Liberal Democrats on the London Fire Emergency and Planning Authority."
Murad Qureshi, London-wide Labour assembly member at City Hall, said:
"London's fire brigade is facing a crisis. Today we found out we will lose Westminster fire station as well as the closure of a further 11 fire stations across the whole of London, 18 fire engines and 400 fire fighters. This will reduce fire cover in London. These cuts will put safety and security of Londoners at risk."