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Lewisham fire cuts meeting sparks anger and call to value residents' lives
A HEATED meeting into proposed fire station closures in Lewisham exploded with heckling, shouts and cries to value residents’ lives over cuts.
There will be 56 fewer firefighters in Lewisham with New Cross and Downham fire stations axed if the Draft Fifth London Safety Plan – which aims to save £29m across the capital – goes ahead.
With two station closures, Lewisham could be the "worst-hit" borough, a member of London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority (LFEPA) said at the LFB consultation meeting at Sydenham School - where around 200 people gathered last night (May 22).
Issues flagged up included many of Lewisham’s wards being over the average six minute target for a first engine to arrive, with "deprived areas" being worst hit including Whitefoot, Bellingham and Downham.
Unite rep and worker at Lewisham Hospital – which faces having its A&E and maternity services downgraded - Anita Downs said: "Perhaps you can explain what you have got against the people in Downham?
"These cuts are going to kill people - they are not marginal cuts. People in this borough are worth more than however many millions you are saving. Our lives are worth saving!"
The meeting of councillors and residents was overwhelmingly against the proposals with Boris Johnson's representative James Cleverly being heckled and a rallying cry made to support the brigade if they decide to strike over the cuts.
MP for Lewisham East Heidi Alexander, who was applauded at the meeting, said: "I think the anger and frustration that you are hearing from the room is because in Lewisham we are facing an all out attack on our emergency services.
"I would urge people to respond to the consultation and for Boris to reconsider these deeply dangerous proposals."
Under the plans, Whitefoot, Telegraph Hill, Downham, Grove Park, Catford South, Bellingham, and Sydenham wards are all expected to exceed the LFB target of a first engine arriving at a fire under an average six minutes.
Other fears raised included the impact of removing Peckham’s appliance and closure of Southwark’s station, as well as response times often being longer than averages with high-rise buildings adding crucial seconds.
LFEPA’s Labour member Fiona Twycross told the meeting: "The fire brigade’s already saved £66m, in my view it’s already seen more than its fair share. These cuts are not necessary.
"Lewisham is arguably the worst hit borough with two fire stations closed."
Brockley resident, Greg Randall added: "The whole community is against you. Are you ready for a fight with Lewisham?"
Leader of Lewisham Council Labour Group Cllr Alan Hall said: "Lewisham Council opposes these plans.
"This isn’t a tweak, it is a savage savage cut.
"We oppose these proposals, will you listen?"
London Fire Commissioner Ron Dobson told the meeting the LFB aimed to maintain response times London-wide of six minutes for the first engine and eight for the second with no plan for compulsory redundancy for firefighters.
He added: "It would be wrong if you thought I was trying to make out they would make no impact because they will."
The LFEPA has officially logged its opposition to cuts to front-line services but say it is consulting fairly under the Mayor of London’s direction.
The consultation runs until June 17 with a decision expected to be made on July 18.
To have your say visit london-fire.gov.uk/LSP5.asp or call 0800 9888 569 or email email@example.com
A consultation meeting is being held in Greenwich on May 29 at Lecture Theatre 315, King William Building , University of Greenwich from 7pm.
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