Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/384/4830
When is a cut not a cut?
THE LABOUR-controlled fire service in London is proposing to cut ten fire engines from central London and close the Manchester Square fire station, near Oxford Street. On top of this, Labour want to cut 188 firefighters' jobs.
Enraged members of the local community, along with the firefighters, recently attended a meeting in Bermondsey, near the Dockhead fire station, which will lose one of its two engines. They attacked the Labour chair of the London fire authority, Valerie Shawcross, who tried unsuccessfully to defend the cuts.
She amazingly tried to convince the audience that fire engines are not for local use but for all-London use. As one firefighter said: "If we are reduced to one fire engine and that is sent somewhere else on an emergency call to a big fire, which happens quite often, who is going to save lives in Bermondsey if something else happens at the same time?"
FBU assistant general secretary (elect) Matt Wrack, demolished the arguments of the fire authority. He explained that central London needs more fire coverage than ever before if the terrorist threats stoked up by the government are to be believed. "No one but the writers of this report believe what it says. The FBU represents the people on the ground, the firefighters, and they tell us that the proposals will put people's lives at risk."
Simon Hughes, the local Liberal MP, along with the leader of Liberal-controlled Southwark council, spoke against the cuts. But what undermined them was when I revealed to the meeting that the Liberal councillor at the fire authority meeting had voted for the cuts as well.
All the speakers from the floor emphasised that the proposals did not take into account the huge number of high rise buildings in the area or the increasing population, as the riverside becomes more and more yuppified.
The London FBU has organised a rally and lobby at 12.30pm on 17 March at City Hall, when the fire authority are due to take the final decision on the cuts.
In The Socialist 12 March 2005: