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Boris: Fire Station Closures Won't Make You Less Safe

Tuesday 7th January 2014

Boris Johnson has been defending shutting 10 London Fire Stations, which takes place this week.

The closures will mean the loss of more than 552 firefighter posts and 14 engines.

Speaking on his monthly LBC 97.3 show Ask Boris, the Mayor said it was a decision he had taken very seriously.

"Time and again I have actually interrogated Ron Dobson, who is a fantastic Fire Chief, about whether he and his team are absolutely confident that they can do this without in any way erroding London's safety and they are," Mr Johnson said.

"They point out the figures showing that deaths from fire are coming down and the number of fires themselves are coming down. I have to take that seriously."

Four London boroughs recently failed in their final legal challenge to the plans.

Islington, Camden, Southwark, Tower Hamlets, Hackney, Lewisham and Greenwich argued the proposals are "legally flawed" and "could put lives at risk".

But their appeal was rejected by Mr Justice Foskett, who ruled the process by which the closure decision was reached was lawful.

fire engine 460

"I have taken every possible consideration of the risks involved and I have decided it is the right way forward," the Mayor continued.

A long consultation took place ahead of the decision. Boris denied an accusation from caller Nick that he had ignored the findings.

"If you look at what happened with the consulatation it was very patchy," Mr Johnson said. "You had some very, very strong defences of fire stations in some places but in other places it was much less conspicuous.

"It is very striking to me that at no stage in the discussion with the Fire Brigade, with the FBU, has there actually been a strike about this issue. I think people understand that there is a common sense behind this, it is pragmatic and it is the way forward and don't forget there are no compulsory redundancies involved."

It was revealed following the collapse of the ceiling at the Apollo Theatre last month, which happened during a packed performance of the Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, that three of the fire stations that supplied kit or personnel to the incident are among those being shut.

Boris said that it is unfair to use that as an argument against their closure.

"I just don't think it is possible to draw conclusions from that," he said. "The first fire fighters on the scene as I understand the matter were from a station that was under no threat whatsoever.

"I don't believe it would have made any fundamental difference," he continued.

"In every case we are able to keep the response time to under the key six minute target. That's the key thing. Can you deliver great firefighters to the spot in time? Can you keep the numbers of deaths from fires and the number of fires coming down? That's what we want to do."

The 10 stations closing at 9.30am on Thursday are: Belsize in Camden, Bow in Tower Hamlets, Clerkenwell in Islington, Downham in Lewisham, Kingsland in Hackney, Knightsbridge in Kensington and Chelsea, Silvertown in Newham, Southwark, Westminster and Woolwich in Greenwich.