I am deeply concerned by BBC reports of proposed closures of fire stations across London, especially Kensington and Knightsbridge Fire Stations.
I am glad that the Mayor has insisted that any closures would be “accompanied by no reduction in safety” and people would be “would be as protected from fire as they are at the moment”.
I have written to the Mayor of London seeking credible and convincing assurances that this will be the case, including evidence of a detailed scrutiny and consultation process that is able to demonstrate that any reconfiguration of fire services will have no substantive effect on their ability to protect the public.
Last month I defended the clinical rationale for a reconfiguration of NHS services in our local area. I argued that spreading services too thinly meant taking unacceptable risks with patient safety, and that better concentration of clinical expertise drives up success rates. However a fire service’s effectiveness depends much more substantially on its ability to reach the scene of an emergency as quickly as possible.
It is well-documented that governments of all political stripes have not always had the easiest of relationships with the fire brigade unions. The Conservative starting-point in such matters, whilst bearing in mind the inevitable budgetary pressures, is to insist that the interests of the users of public services are paramount. Neither the unions nor City Hall should lose sight of this fact, when public safety is so clearly at stake.
I shall be publishing the Mayor’s reply when I receive it on my website, which can be found at www.malcolmrifkind.com