Despite 94% of Londoners opposing cuts to the fire service, it looks like the closure of 10 fire stations and over 500 front line firefighters will be cut. The closure of these stations is expected to take place in January. In the high court, seven different local authorities argued that the planned cuts were "dangerous, irrational and unlawful". It was this high court challenge that failed.
For those who watch the news, it will be difficult to ignore reports concerning recent events at the Apollo theatre in London. On 19 Dec 13, somewhere in the region of 80 people were injured (nine of them seriously) when part of the theatre's ceiling collapsed during a packed show. Out of the eight fire and rescue stations which attended this serious incident, three of them were stations which will be closing in 20 days time.
I'm not the biggest fans of unions and I am a Conservative supporter. My main issue with unions in general is that there are often cases where strike votes have a majority, but with a pitifully low turnout. Unions are good for members in terms of the support they provide, though more often than not turn out to be more self interested in themselves than their members (Unite for example). Despite my general reservations concerning unions, I think that the FBU have got it completely right in this case.
The fire service do an excellent job in terms of fire prevention measures and this is shown in statistics. Unfortunately for firefighters, it seems that the bean counters in London don't understand the concept that unforeseeable events can't be foreseen. Regardless of a drop in the number of fires, deaths and other types of incidents that firefighters attend on a daily basis, cutting these stations and jobs will reduce safety in London.
Add to this the nation wide issue of fire fighters pensions, and it all adds up to a bit of a mess. I for one must declare a self interest in this issue, the same self interest that every single man, woman and child has in terms of this situation. The older a fire fighter gets, the harder it will be for them to pull you out of a burning building, a crashed vehicle or any other number of rescue situations.
Whilst I'm broadly supportive of government policy, these changes are putting your life and mine at directly increased risk. All too often we see attacks on a government for making U-turns. I implore everyone to ask their MP, relevant ministers and the Mayor of London, to reverse both the pension age decision and the decision to cut services in London. If either or both of these decisions were to be reversed, please don't cause havoc but instead offer thanks for making the right decision instead of the cheaper option.
Perhaps I share some affinity with some fire fighters, as I currently face redundancy next year. Despite my political beliefs and my often pessimistic views on unions and strikes, should I find fire fighters roasting chestnuts on an open fire during their strike on Christmas eve, I may well join them.
I grew up watching Fireman Sam as a child, I'm still to this day in awe at what fire fighters have to do on an often daily basis. Don't let yourself or your family suffer because of the increased risk these changes will cause. I've heard of firefighters in London breaking down and crying their eyes out, these were the ones who are safe. Perhaps more than most, they realise what these closures and changes will bring for us all.