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Hundreds of Islington and Hackney fire protesters tell Boris Johnson: “Don’t play with fire”

12:08 10 June 2013

The march down Upper Street, photo Dieter Perry

The march down Upper Street, photo Dieter Perry

Archant

Hundreds of angry protesters joined celebrities, politicians and fire fighters to send a stark warning to Mayor Boris Johnson – “don’t play with fire”.

Hundreds of men, women and children marched through the streets of Islington armed with vuvuzelas, whistles and banners, to meet a contingent of 100 who had marched through Hackney from Kingsland fire station in Haggerston.

A double decker bus which led the demonstration down Upper Street and on to Spa Fields blared Johnny Cash’s 60s hit Ring of Fire as bystanders cheered the protestors on, and car drivers honked their horns in support.

Even the BBC’s Jonathan Creek and QI star Alan Davies could be seen lending support from the sidelines of Saturday’s march, which saw Islington MPs and councillors united in opposition.

The cuts, approved by Mr Johnson, will see Clerkenwell and Kingsland fire stations axed as part of £45 million savings to the London Fire Brigade’s budget, with both closures adding minutes to waiting times for residents.

Emily Thornberry, Islington South and Finsbury MP, who marched side-by-side with Labour colleagues, said: “People in Clerkenwell live on top of each other and we are the most densely populated area in the entire country.

“It is reckless of Boris Johnson to close Clerkenwell fire station. It has served us for 100 years and we cannot afford to have our response rates go up.

“An extra couple of minutes can make all the difference between life and death in Islington, it’s not acceptable.

“People are completely behind us as you can see from today and Boris ought to listen to what people are saying.”

Islington North MP Jeremy Corbyn and Islington Council leader Catherine West also spoke out at the rally.

Figures released by the London Fire Brigade show Clerkenwell residents will have to wait 2m 7s longer for a first fire engine after the cuts, with the response time rising nearly 50 per cent from 4.19 to 6.26 minutes.

Meanwhile the wards closest to Kingsland in Hackney will be hit hard, with response times in Dalston increasing from 5.18 to 6.59 minutes should it close, and most shocking of all in De Beauvoir from 4.24 to 7.37 minutes.

Labour and Liberal Democrat opponents are calling on the Mayor to reverse the cuts – equivalent to just 0.4 per cent of the Greater London Authority’s total budget – by finding savings elsewhere.

Greg Edwards, a Clerkenwell fire fighter who helped lead the march, said: “We want people to fill out their consultation forms and say they don’t want these cuts.

“Ultimately, we don’t just fight fires, we’re a fire and rescue service, whether it be a fire or if your legs are trapped round the back of a lorry because you’ve just been knocked off your bike, and that’s why minutes are crucial.

“But the message is pretty clear by the looks of things – don’t play with fire.”

The cuts are part of a plan to lose 12 fire stations, 18 engines and 520 fire fighters across the capital. The brigade’s consultation on the proposals ends on June 17.

City Hall insists the proposals may mean a slightly smaller estate, but they also include bigger, more efficient and well equipped modern stations.”

A spokesperson said: “While it’s right that tough decisions have to be made in times of economic uncertainty, the Mayor is resolute that any agreed proposals will not reduce the capital’s fire cover and target response times will be protected.”

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