Monday, 18 November 2013

Save London Fire Stations

Dear Friends,

Over 9,200 of us have signed!  Thank you for signing the petition, "Save our fire stations".  Please can you continue to the word by forwarding the link below to your family, friends, neighbours and colleagues?

Save London Fire Stations 10 (SLFS10) will be holding another Red Balloon Event at the London High Court on 26 November to coincide with the judicial review of the decision to close these stations.  Please contact them for more details:savelondonfirestations10@gmail.com.

These closures will affect us all and make us vulnerable at home, at work, at school, at university, on the bus, on the underground, on the train, on our bikes, in a restaurant, in the cinema.  Mr Cleverly, Chair of LFEPA and appointed by the Mayor to that position, describes LSP5, the plan which on 9 January 2014 will decimate the London Fire Brigade, as "risk based".  It is not risk-based.  A risk-based plan would not equate places with low density of population like Orpington with places with high density of population like Kingsland or Westminster.  It would not equate Stanmore with Southwark, the borough where fire deaths have increased by 300% in the last few years, or Clerkenwell.

The plan is not risk-based.  Is it based on a competent model?

Recent fire incidents have shown that fires do not queue up politely and wait their turn.  For example, on 24 October, crews were busy at St Thomas's Hospital.  This required engines from Southwark (due to close), Westminster (due to close), Lambeth and Dowgate.  Lambeth will be taking over Westminster's responsibilities and Dowgate will take over Southwark's after 9 January.

At the same time there was an incident in Warwick Way which needed four engines, including two engines from Brixton.

Or there was the fire on Oxford St.  Soho, the nearest station, was already busy.  It took the first engine, Knightsbridge (due to close) 11 minutes to get there.  The target for the first engine under LSP5 is 6 minutes.
There are questions about the competency of the model. So is the plan based on cost?  Yes, it does seem that money is the driver of this plan, but perhaps not in the way one would hope.  Allegedly, the Mayor wants to make £28.8 million savings this year by cutting these ten fire stations:

Belsize, a Grade II* listed building, already being viewed by free schools
Bow, a busy station
Clerkenwell, a Grade II listed Building, also being earmarked as a free school
Downham, a busy station
Kingsland, a busy station in an area of high-density population. Property prices rising due to Crossrail
Knightsbridge, a busy station, just behind Harrods and located in a conservation area
Silvertown, located in the crash zone for the City Airport and in an area approved by the Mayor in June 2013 for £1.5 billion redevelopment
Southwark, a Grade II listed building and a busy station. 26 fire deaths in the last five years, making it the deadliest borough. Also being eyed as a free school location.
Westminster, a Grade II listed building and a busy station. Located in a terror zone which is also 75% conservation area. Station for Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Westminster Cathedral and Houses of Parliament
Woolwich, a Grade II listed building and also busy. 

In 2010, Southwark Fire Station was valued conservatively at £10 million.  LFEPA at its recent meeting to discuss disposal of the ten fire station sites estimated their value at £50 million (which is questionable, given the value of Southwark alone).  Is the driver of LSP5 the value of the station?  Is LSP5 about delivering safety or harvesting a one-off windfall?

The Mayor will tell you that fire deaths are down.  That much is true (down but not by much).  That is because fire fighters do home fire risk assessment visits where they also fit smoke alarms for free.  They visit schools and universities, housing estates and high rise buildings, making sure to visit the old and disabled.  If LSP5 goes ahead, the stations taking over the duties of the closed stations will not have time to do more home safety visits in addition to their existing workloads.  They will not have the capacity to absorb that.  Westminster's nearest station will be south across the river in Lambeth, but Lambeth is already busy.  Southwark's nearest station will be north across the river in Dowgate, a busy station which also serves the City.  So will the Mayor send firefighters from outlying, less busy stations into central London to do these visits? 

Why do we have fire stations?  For much the same reason that we have home, travel or car insurance.  Fire fighters and fire stations are insurance and the majority of us to date have not needed OUR fire stations and OUR firefighters to rescue us from a road traffic accident, chemical spillage, gas leak, flood, helicopter accident, terrorist attack, smoke-filled station or a fire.

Mayor Boris Johnson's plans will change that.  And, just as President George Bush said, "Read my lips: no tax increase" before breaking that pre-election promise immediately upon election, Mr Johnson promised no fire cuts:

We should have a properly-funded fire service.  The Mayor has stated that one cycle death in one too many (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-24932541).  I agree.  Later he says, "Every death in London's streets is one too many."

He will spend £386 million over three years on cycling.  Yet he will cut £45 million over two years from the London Fire Brigade (and recoup at least £50 million by selling them). 

Surely every fire death is also one too many? Please save YOUR fire stations.
Thank you
Artemis
acknowledgements to Romayne Phoenix

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