High Court Challenge To London Fire Station Cuts

The review is being held at the Royal Courts of Justice

A legal challenge to proposed London Fire Brigade cuts began today.

The judicial review will contest Mayor of London Boris Johnson’s plans to cut 10 fire stations, 14 fire engines and 550 firefighters’ jobs as part of the Fifth London Fire Safety Plan, which he claims will save £28.8m.

The review was instigated by the Councils of the London Boroughs of Camden, Greenwich, Hackney, Islington, Lewisham, Southwark and Tower Hamlets, who are due to lose services when the cuts come into effect in January next year.

A document outlining the Councils’ arguments said that “The Plan adopts an unlawful approach to assessing risks to public safety” and that “The Mayor misdirected himself in adopting the Plan on the false premise that it posed no risks to public safety”.

Sir Steve Bullock, Mayor of Lewisham, said in a statement: “Our argument is that the plan does not take into account fire risk factors in inner London, which is more densely populated, has more deprived and disadvantaged residents who are at greater risk from fire, and where fire responses are often more complex.

“We also argue that the plan would have an impact on public safety, that the Equalities Act was breached, and that the consultation process was unlawful.

“We are determined to do what we can to protect our communities and that is why we have taken this legal action. I believe the cuts to the fire service will put the safety of our residents at risk.”

A public consultation in June found that 94 per cent of people opposed the cuts.

But in September Mr Johnson said: “Ensuring that London’s fire service is financially stable and keeping Londoners safe are my top priorities.

“I am perplexed why over the last 10 months the fire authority has felt it necessary to drag the world’s premier fire service into an increasingly precarious position by refusing to face up to their fiscal responsibilities and listen to the sound professional judgement of the fire commissioner.”

Members of the Fire Brigades Union demonstrated outside the Royal Courts of Justice to show their support for the review.

The FBU London Secretary Paul Embery said in a statement: “These cuts are reckless, wrong and will seriously endanger lives across the capital.

“If they are implemented these savings will lead to an increase in response times for four million Londoners.”

Kingston Upon Thames and Richmond FBU Borough Secretary Paul Neale said the cuts will put local fire services “under a massive strain” as they will have to “cover the void”.

He said: “I don’t think our management have done anything to fight the cuts.

“They’re going to put people in danger and the results will be catastrophic.

“During the [2011] riots we had to call in people from other brigades to help us out, so why are we cutting fire stations and fire engines when we were stretched to the limit then?”

The judicial review will conclude on Thursday.

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