Mayor of London Boris Johnson’s plans to axe Westminster fire station have been slammed by an alliance of residents and politicians from all major parties.
Mr Johnson came under attack at an impassioned public meeting to discuss the closure of the station in Greycoat Place on Tuesday.
The station is one of 12 slated for closure as part of an attempt to plug a £40million funding gap in London Fire Brigade’s budget.
Conservative councillor Nickie Aiken and leader of Westminster Labour group Paul Dimoldenberg joined forces to voice concerns about the closure that, along with other cost-cutting measures such as the reduction of more than 500 firefighters, is set to increase response times in some parts of the borough by more than two minutes.
Tom Oliver, a Pimlico resident, warned the Conservative Assembly Member James Cleverly, who chairs the London Fire Authority, that this “massive mistake” would not be quickly forgotten by voters.
He said at the meeting in Great Smith Street:
“I speak as a Conservative, here, and I have to say to the chairman take this back to the mayor, he should be ashamed of this. I am a strong supporter of many of the mayor’s initiatives, but this is a massive mistake. Frankly if you don’t rethink the model and rethink the special circumstances in Westminster, you are failing your community and you are failing Westminster so badly that it will be remembered for a very long time.”
Councillors Aiken and Dimold¬enberg both guaranteed Judith Amanthis, a Queen’s Park resident, that they would also protect Soho and Paddington fire stations and would demand that no stations in the borough close.
Labour Assembly Member Murad Qureshi, a former Westminster councillor, said the cross-party opposition was a remarkable move. He said:
“We’ve had councillors on both sides of the political fence in Westminster get together. That’s not something I’ve seen in the time I was a councillor in Westminster. The mayor has simply got it wrong and the people of Westminster are not going to take it.”
The mayor’s decision to push through the £40million cuts to the fire service, while cutting £10million from council tax, was criticised by Labour and Liberal Democrat politicians. The cut to the mayor’s council tax precept, that will save households about 7 pence a week was labelled “political posturing”.
Liberal Democrat Assembly Member Stephen Knight told the meeting: “Most Londoners I believe would be quite happy to trade in a few pence a week for keeping proper fire cover across London.
“That is a political decision gone wrong. It is very much a political decision by the mayor to make that choice and choose that priority. It’s the wrong choice in my book and I believe it’s the wrong choice for Londoners.”