The Independent London Newspaper
22nd February 2017

NEW JOURNAL COMMENT: Fire brigade review fails to make case for more money

    Choi Yip (right) with his neighbour Karl Kosmo

    Choi Yip (right) with his neighbour Karl Kosmo

    Published: 24 November, 2016

    THE findings of Anthony Mayer’s review of the London Fire Brigade are to be welcomed but questions remain about whether it went far enough. 

    When, in 2014, the then Mayor of London Boris Johnson axed staff and shut down fire stations – including Belsize and Clerkenwell – there were serious warnings that the service would not be able to cope and lives would be put at risk.

    The death of Choi Yip, in Camden Town, raised serious concerns about whether Camden’s fire service had enough cover if more than one major fire happened at the same time. We later secured a pledge from Sadiq Khan to launch a review into fire cuts if he was elected. 

    Its findings have been hailed by the Fire Brigades Union as a vindication for its campaign. But, at the same time, it cannot be said to be wholeheartedly damning of the previous administration. 

    While it rules out further cuts, it adds that there is “no persuasive case for increasing LFB’s resources”. 

    This review was a missed opportunity for Mayor Khan to distance himself from the rhetoric of austerity and decimation of public services. In this regard, it has stopped short. Further cuts of £23.5million are planned to meet what Mr Khan calls a “budget gap inherited from Mayor Johnson”. The review suggest these cuts can be met by “making better use of existing resources”.

    Raising the precept on council tax is ruled out and no mention is made that the Labour Mayor should make the argument for greater funding from Westminster. 

    Police force merger a ploy to cut costs?

    ON the surface the scheme to merge Camden and Islington’s police forces has a convincing ring about it. 

    The Met says it will help to modernise the service, and allow better use to be made of resources.

    But in the absence of detailed information from the Met – at the moment it is not forthcoming – all the signs point towards this sweeping reform as being yet another cost-cutting exercise. 

    Certainly, it is pretty clear substantial sums will be saved from the merger of some posts and the disappearance of others.

    Critics – including one Safer Neighbourhood officer – have already condemned it as a ploy to cut costs.  

    Until the Met produce the facts and figures behind merge we reserve our judgment.