Newham fire services under threat

Stratford Fire Station

Stratford Fire Station - Credit: Archant

“Alarming” plans to permanently axe two of the borough’s fire engines would delay crews reaching blazes and “put lives at risk”, critics have warned.

Under proposals recommended by the head of London Fire Brigade this week, engines at Plaistow and Stratford would be among 13 in the capital to be slashed to make up an £11m budget black hole for next year, the Recorder can reveal.

Newham would be the hardest hit borough in London, with waiting times for a first engine to reach a fire increasing by an average of 12 seconds.

For more serious fires, the response time for a second engine to attend will increase by one minute and five seconds on average.

“This would jeopardise public safety,” said Paul Embery, FBU regional secretary for London. “Newham has been disproportionately hit by fire service cuts.

“Last year, Silvertown fire station was closed. It is dangerous and reckless to propose further cuts.

“If you are trapped in a fire, that could be the difference between life and death. There’s no doubt about it that this could put lives at risk.”

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The brigade says “targets can continue to be comfortably met at a London level” without the engines, as it bids to make up the 2016-17 budget shortfall.

The 13 engines were temporarily taken out of service in August 2013 so they could be used in the event of strike action by firefighters.

In June this year, just days before the engines were due to be returned to stations, Mayor of London Boris Johnson ordered they be left unused while plans to scrap them were considered.

There are two proposals on the table. The first would see the 13 engines that are already out of use permanently scrapped, while the second suggests selecting 13 engines from any London fire station that has two or more. Under the second scenario Plaistow would keep its engine while Stratford would still lose out.

East Ham MP Stephen Timms said: “These proposals are alarming. Boris Johnson wants to scrap 13 fire engines across London, of which two could be in Newham. Appliances would take longer to get to fires in the borough.

“It’s yet another reason why we need to elect the Labour candidate, Sadiq Khan, as Mayor of London next May.”

Lyn Brown, who represents West Ham in Parliament, added:

“I was saddened to hear of the further reduction in the firefighting capacity in West Ham. Whilst we are seeing fewer fires due to the excellent work done by our firefighters it is important that crew numbers and response times are maintained at a safe level.

“This government is slashing public services but showing no leadership about how cuts could be made and the frontline protected. It continues to abrogate responsibility for this national and essential service.”

A final decision on the plan is unlikely to be made until after the London mayoral elections in May 2016.

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