No further cuts to London Fire Brigade, says review ordered by Mayor

02 November 2016

No further cuts should be made to the London Fire Brigade, an independent review of the service concludes today.

The review, commissioned by the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, and conducted by the former Chief Executive of the Greater London Authority Anthony Mayer, finds that overall the Fire Brigade has dealt well with cuts imposed by Boris Johnson.

But Anthony Mayer argues that no more cuts can be made if it is to have sufficient resources to meet the challenges of the future, and to keep Londoners safe.

Sadiq Khan delivered on a key manifesto commitment when he appointed Mayer to assess the impact of reductions made to the service under the previous Mayor. Mayer was tasked with investigating whether the Fire Brigade needs any additional resources now or in the future, and its ability to effectively manage civil contingencies such as a flood or terror attack.

Mayer has found that, despite reductions to frontline services including the closure of 10 fire stations, the removal of 27 fire appliances and over 500 firefighter posts in order to make required savings of £100 million, the London Fire Brigade has performed well. 

But while the Brigade has continued to hit its target of the first appliance being on the scene of an incident within an average of six minutes in nearly all of the capital’s boroughs, Mayer finds the number of individual wards now not meeting average attendance time targets has risen, in particular where a fire station has been closed.*

And, with funding under the current budget due to be reduced by a further £23.5 million over the next three years, Mayer has warned that any cuts in addition to this would have an impact on the service. They would particularly affect its capacity to manage new challenges and major incidents where the Fire Brigade needs to co-respond with ambulance services, including major health emergencies or terrorist attacks.

Anthony Mayer’s report will help inform the next London Safety Plan, the first led by the new Mayor. His recommendations include:

  • Continual monitoring of performance data so that any negative impacts from cuts can be addressed.
  • Considering options for rehousing some second appliances at different stations, to help improve second appliance response times.
  • Assessing the resources needed to improve fire cover and second fire engine response times in higher risk areas.
  • Asking the London Fire Commissioner to propose target response times for aerial appliances and fire rescue units, rather than just fire engines.**
  • Ring-fencing funds to expand fire rescue unit capacity to tackle high-impact major incidents.

Anthony Mayer said: “London Fire Brigade continues to do an excellent job at keeping Londoners safe and reducing fires across the capital. In the face of significant funding reductions, it has not faltered but implemented a number of sensible and successful adaptations. Nevertheless, it is important that the current budget gap is not allowed to widen further. The service must continue to evolve and adjust to future challenges. Ring-fencing funds for potential major incidents and re-housing second appliances could make a big difference to the Brigade’s ability to maintain its readiness and resources to protect the capital, whatever the future may hold.”

Sadiq Khan said: “Keeping Londoners safe is my top priority, and I am extremely grateful to Anthony Mayer for this report. I wanted to be assured that our capital’s fire service has the resources it needs to cope in the event of a fire or a major emergency and am encouraged to see that despite heavy cuts, the London Fire Brigade continues to do a fantastic job. However, we cannot be complacent. I will be carefully considering these recommendations and doing everything in my power to ensure that every step is taken to keep London as prepared and safe as possible.”

London Fire Commissioner Ron Dobson said: “I welcome this review and the independent scrutiny of our performance which it provides. While this report confirms that we continue to meet our London wide attendance time targets; it also stresses the importance of constantly reviewing the resource we have in place so that the Brigade continually adapts to the needs of London. We agree with this and we carefully and regularly scrutinise our response times and trends in incident data as a key part of our resource planning. We are also currently in the process of putting together our next London Safety Plan and this report’s findings will contribute to  that process. The plan will be open to public consultation in November. ”

Fiona Twycross, Chair of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority (LFEPA) said: “The London Fire Brigade saw the most significant cuts in its history under Boris Johnson. It is only because of the campaigning of experts, Labour members of the Fire Authority, the unions and the London Assembly that these cuts weren’t as severe as the former Mayor had originally envisaged. I am particularly pleased that the report recognises the professionalism of staff who deliver our fire service and who risk their lives to protect Londoners on a daily basis.”

* 37 per cent of wards (242 wards) are now not meeting the average attendance time standard for a first appliance — an increase of 26 wards since 2011/12. The number of wards not meeting second appliance standards has grown from 140 to 151 over the same period.

**Anthony Mayer’s review closely follows the wide-ranging Lord Toby Harris review into London’s terror preparedness, and makes a number of recommendations to help improve the Brigade’s readiness to respond to an attack. These include ring-fencing funds, expanding fire rescue unit capacity, and setting target response times for aerial appliances and fire rescue units.

Notes to editors

  1. The full review can be read here:
  2. As part of the review, Anthony Mayer consulted with fire brigade staff, members of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority, local government and other emergency services and community groups.
  3. The review will be considered alongside the Mayor’s terror preparedness review, led by Lord Harris.
  4. It will help to inform the sixth London Safety Plan, the first led by the new Mayor. A draft will be published in November 2016.
  5. Anthony Mayer was Chief Executive of the GLA between 2000 and 2008, leading on London Resilience issues and on setting up the London Bombings Charitable Relief Fund following the July 7 attacks in 2007.
  6. Since leaving the GLA, Anthony Mayer has been Chairman of the London Pensions Fund Authority and Chairman of the Tenant Services Authority from 2008-2012 and is now the Chairman of One Housing Group.


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