The terrible events at the Grenfell Tower block this morning continue, with confirmed fatalities and injuries as well as reports that a number of people are still missing:
The SKWAWKBOX sends its sympathies to everyone affected and salutes the emergency services who, yet again, have put themselves at risk to help those in need.
But the disaster is made even more terrible and tragic by the fact that residents report that the Tories closed no fewer than three fire stations in the area, reducing the resources available to fight the fire and rescue people – and increasing the response time for firefighters who were available.
The stations were part of a widespread programme of closures instigated by then-London Mayor and now Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who spouted the usual nonsense about ‘tough decisions’ and claimed,
Whilst it’s right that tough decisions have to be made in times of economic uncertainty, the mayor is resolute that any agreed proposals will not reduce the capital’s fire cover and target response times will be protected
The residents at Grenfell and the relatives of those affected will disagree.
The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has warned since cuts – across the country as well as in London – were first announced, that reducing the number of fire stations would inevitably increase response times and put lives at risk. With horrible prescience, the FBU’s regional secretary Paul Embery said,
Mayor Boris Johnson will have blood on his hands. It will be only a matter of time before someone dies because a fire engine did not get to them in time. You cannot close 10 fire stations and slash nearly 600 firefighter jobs without compromising public safety.
These proposed cuts are dangerous and wrong. If they are implemented, they will undoubtedly jeopardise the safety of Londoners and firefighters alike.
The London Fire Brigade now faces perhaps the biggest threat to its ability to function since the Second World War.
The mayor has argued that response times will not be affected by these cuts. Aside from the fact that he has provided little supporting evidence for this claim, anyone who knows anything about firefighting knows that it isn’t just about the speed of response.
The weight of response, ensuring that you have adequate resources to deal with developing and large-scale incidents, is just as crucial.
These cuts would deplete the service and impair its ability to respond quickly and effectively to serious incidents.
Johnson was not only warned by firefighters that his rash cuts would cost lives. Seven councils went to court in an attempt to block the closures, with councillors and London Assembly members pointing to the inevitable consequences.
Labour AM Navin Shah said at the time,
This will reduce fire cover in London, these cuts will put the safety and security of Londoners at risk…the level of cuts forced on the London Fire Brigade by the Mayor and government are truly reckless. Boris’s cuts are hitting front-line services and putting public safety at risk.
while LibDem member Stephen Knight warned,
These cuts being forced on London’s fire brigade by Boris Johnson will make London less safe and are unnecessary.
To compound Johnson’s recklessness, the Tories resisted the installation of sprinklers in tower blocks such as Grenfell in spite of warnings of the risks:
Boris Johnson and the Tories have blood on their hands this morning, just as they were warned. And not only in London – fire deaths across the country have risen by 15% since the Tory cuts.
As ever, those who suffer the consequences of their eagerness to cut services, costs – and taxes for the rich – are innocent, ordinary people like you and me.
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