A truce between the Fire Brigades Union and London Fire Brigade has barely been agreed, but Fire Authority chief Brian Coleman has ordered an investigation into whether London's fire service could do without 27 fire engines. That's the number the LFB withdrew from service to provide cover during the strike, and have not yet put back into service (not even for 5th November, despite it being the busiest night of the year).
Coleman added an emergency amendment to Monday's London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority budget committee, saying:
We are really grateful to the FBU for showing us that there are possible efficiencies. The union has banned overtime for two to three months and London doesn't seem to have come to a halt.
Removing 27 appliances from service could lead to the loss of up to 500 jobs. Firefighters have always maintained that changing shift patterns - the core of the argument - could mean reduced staffing on night shifts. Coleman has insisted throughout the dispute that cuts were not on the agenda, but the speed with which this suggestion has been made is a bit suspicious. The LFB have previously said these shift changes are being proposed to make London safer, but when they suggest reducing the number of engines by about 16% it does make us pause. Either way, this move will only inflame relations and could well make a resolution even harder to reach.