Thursday, 30 May 2013

Closure of Belsize Fire Station - questions the Mayor of London must answer

There will be a London Fire Emergency Planning Authority (LFEPA) consultation meeting on the closure of local fire stations, including Belsize, at the London Irish Centre on Thursday 30th May 7-9pm.  You can read the Draft Fifth London Safety Plan 2013-2016 consultation document here.

Following the protest on Saturday, here are some questions for the Mayor of London:

1.     In Belsize ward the response time for a first appliance goes over the target response time by nearly three minutes – this is a ward where we have 5 residential buildings over 8 stories which is above the height that can be fought from the ground (18m), four of these are the highest in the borough.  Based on the proposed response times, it will take 7 minutes 59 seconds to arrive at the foot of the building, not the time it takes to climb the stairs and reach the front door of the flat.  We know that when it comes to tackling a fire, every second counts. Do you agree the impact on those residents could be fatal? 

2.     Do you agree the London Safety Plan failed to take into account tall buildings & high-rise, high-density residential units, listed and historic properties and critical emergency preparedness as part of the re-modelling for the draft plan?   As a result, the safety and security of residents in Camden is being compromised by the cuts being pushed through by the Tory Mayor.

3.     Belsize Fire Station serves a significant number of call outs in Westminster; whilst Clerkenwell serves more call outs in Camden than in Islington.  In reality, Camden will be losing more than just one Fire Station.  Camden is densely populated which can suffer from extremely congested roads.  These cuts will lead to longer response times from the Fire Brigade and importantly jeopardising Camden resident’s safety.  Are you aware that a fire doubles in intensity every thirty seconds?

4.     The consultation has until recently indicated that the average response time across Camden as a whole will increase by 45 seconds to 5 minutes and 26 seconds. However, recently released data shows the full extent of the impact on individual wards.  Under current arrangements, we have one ward which does not meet the LFB target response time for a first appliance.  If these proposed cuts are implemented, this will increase to seven wards.  Do you think the Mayor is putting public safety at risk?

5.     Camden has had a history of high profile incidents involving a fire response over the years, including the Kings Cross Fire, two of the 7/7 bomb sites and the Camden Lock Market.  Some buildings in the borough are of strategic importance both visually as iconic sites (such as Kings Cross, St Pancras, British Library and British Museum).  They are therefore likely to be a terrorism target, which would require a larger response than a normal fire incident.  What consideration have you given to these factors in determining the proposed station closures?

6.     In Camden we have over 5600 listed buildings, which is one of the highest numbers in London - these listed buildings are of national importance for their significant architectural and historic interest.  We also have many other unlisted buildings which are of similar construction, but of less historic or architectural importance that date back to the 19th century or earlier.  What factor if any, has this played in your determination of the proposals?

7.     Does the modelling take into account the simultaneous closure of both Belsize and Clerkenwell?  What impact do you think closing 2 stations that serve a busy and vibrant London borough will have on residents confidence? And also do you think response times are essential to saving lives?  

8.     What assurance can the fire service provide that the proposed cuts will not adversely affect the response to major incidents, given the work that has gone into implementing the recommendations following 7/7 and the King's Cross fire?

9.     What efforts have the LFB made to find the required savings from back office functions?  Here at Camden we have successfully made an efficiency saving of over £40 million over 3 years which has come from back office savings such as administration, human resources and finance, rather than frontline cuts.  Surely a saving of £25million over 2 years could be found from similar back office functions rather than affecting critical front-line services.

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