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Save Clerkenwell and Kingsland fire stations

Cllr Richard Greening spoke in support of our fire stations at last night’s public meeting (Thursday 25 April), organised by the FBU. Here is a copy of his speech:

“Earlier this year we learned the full extent of the cuts planned to London’s fire services. The Conservative Mayor of London’s £45 million worth of cuts over the next 2 years mean that 12 Fire Stations are set to close, 18 Fire appliances are being de-commissioned and 520 Fire Fighters will lose their jobs.

For Islington this means the loss of two fire stations which proudly serve our borough: Clerkenwell and Kingsland.

Nothing is more important than people’s safety. That’s why we pay our taxes so that we have a fire service to protect us when we need it. Cutting our protection to make a 0.4% saving in Boris’s budget cannot be justified.

You can’t slash 12 fire stations, 18 fire engines and over 500 fire fighter posts without jeopardising public safety – and in a borough with over 200,000 people, Islington is set to suffer.

None of these proposals were announced during Mr. Johnson’s election campaign, and Londoners are rightly furious that they have been betrayed.

The recent helicopter accident in Vauxhall showed the importance of having a properly-funded, well-resourced fire service in the capital, and it is worthy of note that the first crew at the scene was mobilised from a station – Clapham – earmarked for closure, and arrived within four minutes. Under the Mayors proposals this would not have happened.

This council is on the side of our residents and we have passed a unanimous motion to publically oppose the Mayor’s plans. Our council leader, Catherine West has written to the Mayor to convey our serious concerns about the impact on the safety of Islington residents. We took a delegation to city hall on the 25th February to hand in our petition against the closures. We are organising in conjunction with the FBU a protest about the closure threat to Clerkenwell on 8th June.

Islington is the most densely populated borough in the country and many of our residents live in high rise blocks of flats, particularly in the parts of the borough served by Clerkenwell. The draft London Safety Plan admits that response times will increase in Islington, but real response times for residents living in tower blocks are much longer than the six minutes target in the plan. If a fire appliance arrives at the bottom of a tower block in six minutes, it can take twice that time for a crew ascending to an upper floor to actually reach the incident.

Unlike residents in street properties, residents in tower blocks cannot easily escape to a place of safety, so the risks for them are much higher.

The Lakanal House fire in Southwark demonstrated the dangers of fires in tower blocks and it also highlights one further issue. 18 fire appliances attended the Lakanal House fire, the same number that Boris is proposing to remove. So his plan has the same effect on the rest of the fire service as having to cope with a permanent major incident on the scale of Lakanal House.

Our fire fighters do a fantastic job keeping us all safe, now it’s our turn to repay that gratitude by making sure they have the resources needed to do their jobs.

The Labour council in Islington is determined to create a fairer borough. Fairness must include equal protection against the risk of fire for council tenants living in high rise blocks as it does for residents living in street properties

The mayor’s proposals put our residents at risk and all because he is so incompetent that he can’t find a 0.4% saving elsewhere in his budget. He needs to change his priorities. He needs to start supporting ordinary Londoners and the fire fighters that serve them.

Our council stands shoulder to shoulder with the FBU in opposing these dangerous and unnecessary cuts and we will continue our campaign until we have saved not just Clerkenwell and Kingsland, but all the stations, appliances and jobs which are under threat.”

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