Boris Johnson “facing court action” over cuts to Islington and Hackney fire stations
- Credit: PA
Boris Johnson is facing court action over planned closures to Clerkenwell and Kingsland fire stations, it emerged today.
The London Fire Authority (LFA), which yesterday blocked plans to close 10 stations across London, could take the Mayor to court if he attempts to exercise powers “instructing” them to accept the cuts, the Gazette understands.
LFA members are required to vote through the changes before they can be implemented, but yesterday voted 9-8 against the cuts which include the two Islington and Hackney-based fire stations.
Mr Johnson is now seeking legal advice over the block and may use powers to “instruct” LFA to accept the plan – effectively forcing it through.
However, an LFA source today said it may take the Mayor to court if he attempts such a move, as it has the financial reserves to fund a legal battle.
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Speaking of yesterday’s decision to block axing 10 stations, 14 engines and 552 fire fighters across the capital in a drive to save £28.8 million over the next two years, Mr Johnson accused the LFA of leaving the fire service hanging in “an increasingly precarious position”.
He said: “I am disappointed that the Fire Authority has once again shirked their responsibilities to deliver a balanced budget, leaving the service in an increasingly precarious position.
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“I am seeking advice so this can be rectified as quickly as possible and to provide financial and organisational stability for London’s fire service.”
Liberal Democrat, Labour and Green Party members teamed up to a total nine votes against an all-Conservative eight at yesterday afternoon’s LFA vote.
Campaigners fighting to keep Clerkenwell and Kingsland stations open once again marched from the Monument to the Great Fire of London to the Brigade’s Union Street offices in a bid to influence the vote.
Clerkenwell-based fire fighter Greg Edwards, who has been leading the campaign to keep Europe’s oldest fire station open, welcomed the vote, saying the fight to keep the station open is far from over.
Meanwhile, Greater London Assembly member for Islington and Hackney, Jennette Arnold, slammed Mr Johnson for criticising the move to block the cuts.
She said: “How dare the Mayor accuse LFA of shirking their responsibility. They have a mandate to refuse the plan to cut services because more than 90 per cent of residents in the recent consultation said they didn’t want services cut.
“What a miserable, irresponsible idiot. He is in no position to talk about shirking responsibility. He should listen to the fire officers who know more than he will ever know and to his residents who do not want to see these dangerous cuts.”
Islington Liberal Democrat leader Cllr Terry Stacy, who has been leading his party’s campaign locally against the cuts, said: “We’ve got a bullying Mayor who is trying to push this through according to his own agenda.
“This is yet another slap in the face for Islington residents. Even at this late hour Boris should listen to Londoners and reverse these dangerous cuts which if implemented will drive up response times across large parts of London.”
Clerkenwell residents will be forced to wait a further 2m 7s for a first fire engine to arrive if the cuts go ahead, while Dalston and De Beauvoir residents will have to wait 1m 41s and 3m 13s respectively.
London Fire Commissioner Ron Dobson said: “We have to acknowledge that the number of fires we attend has gone down by half in the last 10 years, and our latest figures show that fires continued to fall at the same rate last year.
“Under my revised proposals, response times in London will remain amongst the very best of any emergency service in the UK and firefighters will continue to carry out community safety work to prevent fires at the same level as they do now.”