London Mayor ‘let down’ by fire funding refusal
SADIQ KHAN says Londoners have been ‘let down’ by the government’s ‘refusal to fund’ fire equipment.
Evening Standard reported on Mr Khan’s response to the government’s rejection of his ‘request for new firefighting equipment’, with Home Secretary Amber Rudd responding to his bid for £6m. This was for ‘aerial ladders, drones and 1,200 breathing apparatus kits’ for firefighters after the Grenfell Tower fire.
Another £6m a year was requested to ‘run the fire service and pay for staff’, but Mr Khan was told the budget ‘was his responsibility’. He added that he will now have to ‘plunder City Hall reserves to pay for the equipment’, which was requested by London Fire Brigade (LFB) chief Dany Cotton just after Grenfell.
Mr Khan stated that ‘when you’re in a situation where firefighters are risking their personal safety and lives to keep London safe, it’s unacceptable for them not to have the equipment that they tell me they need. That is why I have authorised the expenditure of this money to procure the equipment.
‘We are spending our reserves. You can only spend the reserves once. Unless the government recognises the resources the London Fire Brigade needs, I worry about the future funding of the service’. His view was that Ms Rudd had ‘utterly failed’ to acknowledge ‘hundreds of millions of pounds’ of cuts to the authority as well as ‘direct cuts’ to the fire grant, and stated he would meet with her for discussions.
He noted in turn that ‘Londoners will feel let down by the government’s intransigence on this vital issue’, though Mrs Rudd’s response claimed that the mayor’s reserves had grown by £1.3 billion ‘in the past five years’, while core spending for the Greater London Authority grew 2.1% this year. She also noted Mr Khan was ‘responsible on how to spend his budget which comes from central government grants, locally retained business rates and council tax’.
Her letter added: ‘The amount of funding provided to London Fire Brigade for undertaking fire and rescue services across the capital is a matter for you as the Mayor of London in conjunction with the London fire commissioner and London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority.’
Mr Khan disputed the claims on funding, adding that Greater London Authority spending power ‘has been cut by seven percent’, while over £1 billion of the ‘rise in reserves in ring-fenced’.