Fire chiefs insist Wandsworth residents won’t be in danger as they prepare for strike


A potential strike over pensions is scheduled for September 5.


By Danny Collins

Fire chiefs insist that Wandsworth will be adequately covered in the event of a planned strike, despite the borough losing one of its engines.

London Fire Brigade has confirmed that 27 fire stations across the capital will temporarily lose engines ahead of a potential industrial action over government plans for firefighters’ pensions.

The strike is subject to a ballot by firefighters that closes on August 29, with any potential strike scheduled to take place on September 5.

But fire chiefs say the strike will have no bearing on the force’s ability to attend incidents in the borough.

A London Fire Brigade spokesman said: “Fire cover in London is not planned on a borough level, it’s planned London wide – so if you have an incident in Wandsworth, you won’t necessarily get a fire engine from one of the fire stations in your borough.

“If the fire engines at your nearest station are busy, then we send one from the next available station, which may be in the neighbouring borough.”

It is planned that the 27 fire engines will be redistributed across the capital to ensure there is adequate cover in place in the event of a strike.

Fire crews are currently expected to attend an emergency within six minutes, although London’s crews attend incidents in just five minutes and twenty seconds on average.

London Fire Commissioner, Ron Dobson, has defended the plans.

“This dispute is between the FBU and government, but as the national strike may involve London, we have a legal responsibility to prepare for the possibility of strike action in September,” he said.

“This is not a decision I have taken lightly and I am not presuming the ballot will result in a yes vote, but I need to ensure contingency plans are in place, which is why I’ve arranged for the temporary removal of 27 fire engines.”

The Fire Brigade Union is threatening the strike action in the wake of government proposals for the reform of firefighters’ pensions.

It has argued that the changes would see its members have to pay increased pension contributions and put firefighters at greater risk of dismissal if they cannot maintain fitness levels as they appraoch the retirement age of 60.

The changes would see firefighters who retire before the age of 60 lose up to 50% of their final pension.

FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said: “Expecting large numbers of 60-year-olds to fight fires and rescue families is dangerous to the public and to firefighters.

“The government is simply ignoring the evidence about the physical demands of firefighting and has been unable to answer our concerns during two years of negotiations.

“None of us want a strike, but we cannot compromise on public and firefighter safety. We hope common sense prevails, and the government returns to the negotiating table.”

Photo courtesy of by Alex Drennan, with thanks.

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