THE Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has vowed to fight ‘unthinkable’ proposals to cut the budget for the London Fire Brigade by £25m over two years, as part of the Labour Mayor of London’s £500m saving plans.
The FBU has condemned the ‘huge damage to the fire service’ left over from Boris Johnson’s time as Mayor of London. Now the central government, headed by Johnson, has refused to bail out the GLA’s budget shortfall accrued during the coronavirus pandemic.
The union has criticised Mayor Sadiq Kahn for ‘passing on Tory cuts to the very emergency services that keep people safe’ and has vowed ‘to hold him to his commitment to protect frontline services’.
After the sacking by Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer of his shadow education secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey, a leading Corbynite and Fabian socialist who stood against Starmer for the Labour leadership, we now have a new reality.
We have a Labour front bench that supports Johnson’s policies, and is framing up and ditching its left wing, while the Labour Mayor of London, Kahn, is a party to the savage cuts that the former Tory mayor of London, Johnson, now the PM, has imposed on the Fire Service. Khan has just received a public warning from the FBU.
David Shek, FBU executive council member for London, said yesterday: ‘London is the epicentre of the UK’s building safety crisis and there is no safe way to manage funding cuts of this magnitude. A £25 million cut to London Fire Brigade’s funding is unthinkable and we will fight it to the bitter end.
‘We have just marked the third anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire and in the years since have dealt with a number of fires in buildings with similar combustible materials. The dangers of cutting the fire and rescue service right now are blatantly obvious.
‘The Mayor has committed to protected frontline emergency services and we will hold him to that. We will not accept any reduction in frontline services – whether that be crewing reductions, shift changes, or a recruitment freeze. Make no mistake – any reduction in fire cover will put lives at risk.’
Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: ‘The scale of these cuts is devastating and is a gross insult to firefighters in London who have gone above and beyond to support their communities during the Covid-19 pandemic. The public will not support these cuts, and we intend to fight them.
‘Sadiq Khan made a commitment to protect vital frontline services and he must do that. The government should support regions facing financial difficulties as a result of Covid-19 but there is no excuse for a Labour Mayor to be passing on Tory cuts to the very emergency services that keep people safe across the capital.
‘This pandemic has demonstrated the value of the fire and rescue service and we should actually be talking about new investment to make the service better and safer. The government must step up to provide whatever financial support is necessary or the prime minister’s talk of ending austerity will ring hollow across London. If that support is not forthcoming, the Mayor must pledge to scrap these dangerous cuts.’
Wrack gave evidence in front of the Fire Safety Bill committee on Thursday 25th June. He said: ‘Three years after Grenfell, Britain’s fire safety regime remains a national disgrace and politicians are responsible. This legislation is long overdue but insufficient. The bill in its current form is a gross underestimate of the realities of the crisis. Without funding a significant increase in fire inspector numbers, this change in the law will not ramp up enforcement on rogue landlords – ministers need a serious reality check.’
However, the reality is that the major trade union leaderships, that of the TUC, Unite, Unison and the GMB are in support of PM Johnson’s policies and limit themselves to appealing to Johnson to ‘save more jobs’. The FBU must get ready for political strike action and a campaign to mobilise the whole of the working class to force the TUC leaders to either call a general strike or to resign and make way for those that will. The Tories must be brought down and replaced by a workers’ government that will bring in socialism. This is the only way forward!