Clerkenwell fire station must be kept open due to terrorist threat, claims safety chief

Clerkenwell fire station

Clerkenwell fire station - Credit: Archant

Under-threat Clerkenwell fire station must be kept open because of the risk of another terrorist attack on London, Islington’s crime and safety chief warned this week.

Councillor Paul Convery

Councillor Paul Convery - Credit: Archant

Crews from the historic station in Rosebery Avenue were the first to attend bombed Tavistock Square in Bloomsbury on July 7, 2005, because the two engines at Euston were elsewhere, Cllr Paul Convery told a scrutiny committee at Islington Town Hall on Monday.

He added: “This demonstrates the need to have sufficient spread of fire engines to deal with these very large scale incidents.

“Clerkenwell serves an area of London, highly sensitive to terrorist threats. The security services believe there is quite a high possibility of incidents like the July 7 bombings happening again.

‘‘These closures are driven by a set of arbitrary financial cuts targets, rather than how we make London a safe place.”

Mr Convery was briefing the committee as London’s fire chiefs entered a “Mexican standoff” with Boris Johnson over his proposals to shut 12 stations, including Clerkenwell and Kingsland in Kingsland Road, Haggerston. The closures, which would see 18 engines and 520 jobs axed, were drawn up to save £28.8million over two years.

The London Fire Authority rejected the plans for the second time in a matter of weeks on Monday, and now Mr Johnson may have to take the authority to court in order to force them through.

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He has already attempted to overrule the authority by “directing” it to set the closures in motion, but on Monday an alliance of Labour, Lib Dem and Green politicians who form the majority on the authority voted to ignore this order.

Cllr Convery, Islington Council’s executive member for community safety, told the committee: “The fire service cuts have now entered something of a Mexican standoff.

“The authority has now on two occasions defied the mayor and declined to impose his cuts.

‘‘We are now in new legal territory.”

Mr Johnson is facing a two-pronged assault on his plans after the London Assembly also sought to derail them last Friday, by passing an amendment to his budget.

Labour, Lib Dem and Green assembly members insist enough money can be raised to keep all the stations open if average households are asked to pay just 7p more per week in council tax. Cllr Convery added: “Most Londoners will say that’s acceptable.”

The London Fire Brigade insists average fire response times in Islington and Hackney would remain well within the brigade’s target of six minutes, even if the closures of Clerkenwell and Kingsland go ahead.