London fire cuts: Councils to seek judicial review

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Media captionThis week, the mayor gave the green light to planned cuts to the fire service, despite opposition from the fire authority.

A group of London councils is preparing to take legal action over the decision to shut 10 fire stations as part of plans to make £28.8m savings.

A total of 552 firefighters' posts will also be lost and the number of fire engines cut by 14 under proposals given the green light by Boris Johnson.

London Fire Brigade's governing body narrowly voted to reject the plans but the mayor had the final say.

Islington, Camden, Southwark and Tower Hamlets are to seek a judicial review.

Mr Johnson has said he wants the plans, which leave London with 155 fire engines and 102 stations, implemented by 16 September. About 5,500 firefighters are also employed across London.

Based on current spending and funding forecasts, London Fire Brigade expects a budget shortfall of £35m for 2014-15.

'Dramatic action'

Islington Labour councillor Joe Caluori said: "We thought that he [Boris Johnson] would look at the evidence, listen to what people were saying and realise that these plans were going to put lives at risk.

"We were shocked, we were appalled when we saw that the plans were going to go ahead, beginning this September.

"That's why it's so important to us that we take the dramatic action of a taking out a judicial review because it's the only way we can stop this from happening."

He said the authority would be seeking the review on the grounds the mayor did not listen to the consultation responses, the changes would put lives at risk and did not take high-rise buildings into account.

London Fire & Emergency Planning Authority (LFEPA) chairman James Cleverly said: "I'm absolutely confident that the mayor is acting well within the powers given to him by the GLA Act and I'm completely confident that we will be vindicated in the decision that we've taken.

"This proposal has been put forward by the commissioner of London Fire Brigade, one of the most experienced professional firefighters in the world, and neither he I or the mayor would sign up to any plan that would increased the risk to Londoners.

"This plans is a good plan, it's a safe plan and that's why I'm completely happy to put my name to it."

Ninety four per cent of Londoners who took part in the public consultation opposed front-line cuts in the London Fire Brigade, and hundreds of Londoners also voiced their opposition at public meetings

But London's Fire Commissioner Ron Dobson said the number of fires the brigade attended had "gone down by half in the last 10 years" and that "proactive prevention work" stopped fires from happening rather than stations and engines.

The proposals were criticised by Labour, the Greens and Liberal Democrats and the mayor's decision branded an "affront to democracy" by the London Fire Brigade Union (FBU)".

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