It's time to have your say on plans to close 12 fire stations, remove 18 fire engines from service and reduce the number of firefighters by 520.
A consultation on what's officially know as the Draft Fifth London Safety Plan (or LSP5) opens today and ends on 28 May. You can make your views known online (or writing or calling if you prefer) or going to a public meeting, details of which will be announced soon. The London Fire Authority has recommended there be a meeting of around two hours in each borough as the changes affect all of London (and some feel the one hour per borough allowed during the police consultation is somewhat perfunctory).
The Labour, Liberal Democrat and Green members of the Fire Authority (LFEPA) have been fighting the proposals, arguing for the Mayor to abandon his small (around 7p per week per household) council tax cut and put the cash towards keeping stations open. However, after Boris Johnson threatened legal action, the group decided it wasn't in anybody's interest to spend taxpayer cash on lawyers and have voted for the consultation to go ahead. They're also hoping to hold off any cuts until after the 2013/14 financial year; the original plan could have seen closures as early as this autumn.
Conservatives say that even with a council tax freeze, rather than cut, there still wouldn't be enough cash. There is also an argument being made that with 50% fewer fires in London than 10 years ago, these reductions are reasonable and the accompanying reorganisation actually brings more of London within target response times. But these arguments also come with the admission that the closures would not be happening without budget cuts.
But is this consultation just for show? Well, this is what Boris Johnson said at Mayor's Question Time on 30 January:
People want to know that these consultations are real... If better ideas can be produced then we are there to hear them.
Green Assembly Member Darren Johnson also says:
The Mayor has himself stated that the result is not a forgone conclusion. If Londoners overwhelmingly reject the planned closures then the Mayor should reconsider his budget priorities.