London's Fire Service

MQT on 2012-11-21
Session date: 
November 21, 2012
Question By: 
Andrew Dismore
Labour Group
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


Will you confirm that no Borough will see worse actual first appliance attendance times as a result of the budget cuts he is imposing on LFEPA?


Answer for London's Fire Service

Answer for London's Fire Service

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Yes. Can I just say that he [John Biggs AM] is chuntering again in my ear. I do not know what your view about this is, care in the community, he is at it. Do you mind if he constantly --

Jennette Arnold OBE (Chair): OK.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): What is your ruling, Chair?

Jennette Arnold OBE (Chair): I will pick that up in a moment. Can you just find the answer to this question?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): OK. Andrew, thank you very much. It is absolutely vital that we maintain our target responses times and I have insisted to the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority (LFEPA) and to the London Fire Commissioner [Roy Dobson] that we do so.

Andrew Dismore (AM): Do you agree that there is a difference between the target response time and an actual response time?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): There may be but what I have said is that I want to see our target response times protected.

Andrew Dismore (AM): You see, the reason I ask that is that the fire brigade do quite well. Under your modelling of your cuts, the £50 million funding gap over the next two years, every borough except one will see worse attendance times than they get now. In Richmond, for example, the second appliance will take five seconds short of ten minutes on your modelling to get there. Is that appropriate?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): A couple of points. First of all, I do not know what proposals you are talking about -- well I do know the proposals you are talking about but they are not ones that have been settled which is point we could go on and on ad nauseam about. Secondly, what matters to me and I think what should matter to anybody of common sense and goodwill who approaches this, is that you continue to meet your target times for responses. It is those targets times that have enabled us in London to continue to reduce deaths by fire and indeed to continue to reduce fires altogether. As I say the figures are very, very creditable to the LFB. The number of fires is down by 18% over the last four years, the number of incidents is down by 25%. That is a great achievement and we are going to keep it going.

Andrew Dismore (AM): At the risk of waving a document about again, this is a paper going to the LFEPA tomorrow. I am sure you have read it like I have. It has your statistics in there which I just quoted to you. The £50 million cuts option shows that every borough in London except one will see worse actual attendance times than they get now.

Perhaps I can give you a real example. Belsize fire station is down for closure on every one of the different options in the paper. Last Thursday on 15 November, Belsize pump was on standby at a different station covering training which would replicate the effect of that station being closed. On that date there was a fire in a first floor flat two streets from the station. West Hampstead had to cover for Belsize. It took them almost eight minutes to get there. Camden's present attendance time is 4 minutes 41 seconds, so it took nearly double what it would take under the average attendance time in Camden, and certainly if Belsize pump had been there they would have got there in two or three minutes.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Well it is a good point --

Andrew Dismore (AM): Let me finish the point. Luckily no persons were involved in the fire but arithmetically - and I know you probably did arithmetic at Eton - every minute a fire increases exponentially. Proportionately it grows very, very rapidly. It was lucky nobody was in that flat because if they had been their chances of survival would have been significantly worse as a result of that.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Yes.

Andrew Dismore (AM): That is no reflection on West Hampstead who had to cover it.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Of course not, no.

Andrew Dismore (AM): That is a scenario you are going to create through your cuts.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I understand. Indeed, the proposals as I understand them are ones that, if and when they are approved, they must be approved by LFEPA of which I believe you are a member, are you not?

Andrew Dismore (AM): Of course I am. That is why I have read the paperwork, unlike you.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I know that you, as a responsible member of LFEPA, will want to make sure that fire cover in London is in no way diminished and that we continue to protect people in this city and that is what I want too. Your point about the fire in Belsize Park is well taken and I am sure that will be fed into consideration.

Andrew Dismore (AM): The whole point about it is that it has not been and it will not be under your proposals.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Well, as I say, you have ample opportunity within the context of LFEPA, under the consultation process that will get underway, to make that case. Obviously, there will be fire service professionals who will say that cover is very good and it is their job to keep improving it. It is an argument, Andrew, that you are there to make and one that is there to be had.