United Kingdom — Dozens of people spoke out against plans to cut the number of fire engines in Waltham Forest at a public meeting last night.
The London Fire Brigade (LFB) is proposing to reduce the number of vehicles based at Chingford, Leyton and Leytonstone fire stations from two to one as part of efforts to save £45.5million over two years.
Brigade bosses, including Commissioner Ron Dobson, came to Walthamstow Assembly Hall on Monday to discuss the plans as part of a London-wide consultation tour.
The brigade insists residents will not be put at greater risk and that crews will still be able to hit their targets of attending a fire within six minutes for the first engine and eight minutes for the second vehicle.
But critics are sceptical, while also fearing that the borough will need more fire cover in future due to its growing number of housing developments.
However Mr Dobson told the meeting: “In Waltham Forest the number of incidents we attend is down 20 per cent on ten years ago.
“During that time the population rose by 17 per cent and households by eight per cent.
“Some people assume that the number of fires increases with the number of households, but that is not the case.
He said that under the changes the first engine at the scene of an incident in Waltham Forest would be on average four seconds slower, while the second vehicle would be 47 seconds slower.
But Labour’s Waltham Forest London Assembly Member Jennette Arnold dismissed suggestions that the time difference was marginal.
She said: “Seconds count in a fire. I cannot see how it is justified to take three engines from one borough, especially at a time of growth.”
Many of her Labour colleagues at the council also queued up to criticise the plans, with the concerns echoed by many residents.
Not a single person in the audience spoke in favour.
Gail Penfold, chair of the Walthamstow Stadium Area Residents Association, said: “If you were only taking one engine away I think there might be less opposition, but residents are strongly against these unfair proposals.
David Cartwright, the representative of Conservative Mayor of London Boris Johnson on the fire authority, said the allocation of resources was flexible and that Waltham Forest could get more in future if there was a need.
He said resources were allocated on a London-wide basis because engines frequently attended incidents outside their own boroughs.
The consultation period closes on June 17. Visit http://www.london-fire.gov.uk/lsp5.asp for more information.