Downham, New Cross and Woolwich fire station closures vote may be 'ignored' by Mayor of London Boris Johnson
Downham campaigner Jean Vecchi, 79, (pictured in the middle) at the FBU protest against fire station closures, pictured with Liberal Democrat councillor Cllr Julia Fletcher (far right)
FIRE chiefs’ rejection of plans to close Downham, New Cross and Woolwich fire stations may be "unacceptably" ignored by the Mayor of London.
Proposals to close 12 fire stations and axe 520 jobs were thrown out by the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority (LFEPA) at a meeting – picketed by hundreds of firefighters - on Monday.
But Mayor of London Boris Johnson – who has final say over plans aimed at saving £45m over the next two years – says the authority’s decision offers "nothing positive" and he will press on with the consultation anyway.
Speaking after the meeting, Mr Johnson said: "I am of course always willing to listen to submissions but it's quite clear today's decision offers nothing positive, indeed it demonstrates a complete lack of leadership."
Mr Johnson added: "This consultation will continue as planned. I will be issuing a Mayoral directive to ensure it does."
The move to ignore his appointed fire bosses’ is "completely unacceptable", according to the Fire Brigade Union (FBU) – which organised Monday’s rally where around 500 firefighters protested outside the LFEPA's headquarters in Union Street.
A FBU spokesman told News Shopper: "We are obviously very pleased at the outcome [of the meeting] – we think it is absolutely the right action.
"It is a good thing that the fire authority has rejected the proposals but we have heard since that Boris Johnson might intervene and push through the cuts anyway – that would be completely unacceptable."
Mr Johnson maintains the changes will be about improving London’s fire service and keeping up exceptional response times alongside "financial responsibilities".
But Liberal Democrat London Assembly Member and member of LFEPA Stephen Knight AM challenged this, saying: "The Mayor's fire brigade budget is clearly inadequate to maintain the fire cover that people throughout London deserve.
"Sadly the Mayor has the legal power to override the fire authority.
"If he chooses to do so and goes ahead with the closure of 12 fire stations and the reduction of 18 fire engines, then the consequences for the safety of Londoners will be squarely on his shoulders."
A spokesman for the London Fire Brigade said: "Over the coming days, the London Fire Commissioner Ron Dobson will be discussing with officers what this means in terms of setting the authority’s budget and finding the savings of £45m that are still needed over the next two years."
Campaigner Jean Vecchi, 79, lost her 6-year-old daughter Yvonne in a house fire in 1971 and has fought to save Downham Fire Station four times.
Her son Glenn Vecchi, who lives in Plumstead, is also staunchly against the cuts which he worries will add precious seconds to firefighters' journey times.
The 58-year-old said: "My sister died in the fire.
"Smoke kills a lot of people – a second could save someone’s life. "It is a second between life and death.
"I know they have got to save money but they always seem to cut back on the wrong things."