Islington Council set to pursue judicial review against Boris Johnson’s fire cuts

Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson - Credit: Archant

Town Hall chiefs have waded into the fire cuts row by throwing down the gauntlet to London Mayor Boris Johnson with a threat of legal action.

Councillor Paul Convery

Councillor Paul Convery - Credit: Archant

Islington and Hackney Councils are now pushing for a judicial review in a bid to save Clerkenwell.

The legal threat comes after Mr Johnson ordered the London Fire Authority to accept axing 10 stations and 552 firefighters across London after it blocked the proposals last month.

Both boroughs are in discussions with other inner London authorities – including Westminster and Camden – about funding a court showdown.

They would argue that the mayor’s bid is “unsound and irrational”, according to Islington Council’s executive member for community safety, Cllr Paul Convery.

He said: “This is unchartered territory. We know throughout Islington it will take longer for a fire engine to reach an incident and in Mildmay, Clerkenwell and Caledonian wards, Boris’s plan means residents will have to wait longer than six minutes for the first fire engine, and the mayor has said that should not happen.

I“So we’re saying, guess what Boris, we will see you in court if you continue to try to force this through.

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“He isn’t holding all the cards, because we think this is such a fundamental decision, and one in which lives are at risk, that we will do everything in our power to stop these stations being closed.

“This plan is unsound and irrational and not based on safety, it’s based on saving money when he could have found the money somewhere else in his empire to keep these fire stations open.”

Cllr Convery said a judicial review heard by a High Court judge could cost in excess of £50,000.

Last month London Fire Authority members voted nine to eight against the cuts.

Clerkenwell residents will have to wait a further two minutes seven seconds for a first fire engine to arrive if the cuts go ahead, while Dalston and De Beauvoir will have to wait another 1min 41secs and 3mins 13secs respectively.

Cllr Terry Stacy, leader of the Lib Dem opposition, said he supports Islington Council’s pledge on legal action.

Mayor of Hackney Jules Pipe said: “I’m appalled by the decision.

“It means response times for engines reaching six wards – or one third of Hackney - will be well over the fire brigade’s [six minute] target, increasing by almost 75% in one case.”

Mr Johnson said: “I am perplexed as to why the fire authority has felt it necessary to lead the fire service into an increasingly precarious position by not facing up to its fiscal responsibilities and by rejecting the sound professional judgement of the fire commissioner, a firefighter with more than 20 years of experience.

“I have issued a direction, which requires the authority to adopt the London safety plan as proposed by the commissioner on July 18, so that there is a balanced fire authority budget for 2014-15 and so that compulsory redundancies can be avoided.

“We need to move forward to face the challenges of 21st century firefighting.”