By Xanthe Whittaker
There was a strong show of support on Monday night at a meeting to save Clapham Fire Station, which is threatened with closure. Almost 100 people squeezed into the room at the Bread and Roses pub, Clapham, which was addressed by local Labour MP Kate Hoey, Val Shawcross, London Assembly member and Iain Lehair from the Fire Brigades Union (FBU).
Clapham is one of twelve stations to be closed under plans by the London Fire Brigade (LFB) to save £28.2million. Clapham acts as a secondary station for any incidents in the Brixton area.
At the packed meeting in Clapham, Lehair described the closures as irresponsible, saying they will worsen fire attendance times for 4.5million Londoners, and have a particularly dire effect on areas that are run-down and overcrowded. He placed the closures in the context of wider Tory plans to privatise the fire service and condemned Boris Johnston for undemocratically overturning the decision of the London Fire Authority not to close the stations. He said that the FBU will consider taking action “when there is clear support from the community.” He also suggested the possibility of fire stations being occupied.
Kate Hoey MP backed Lehair’s calls for a broad community campaign to fight to save the fire stations.
An FBU member called for a march in south London on 16 March against the closure. It got lots of vocal support from the meeting. Labour are keen to run a letter writing campaign and encourage residents to participate in the consultation process around the closures. But there was a clear mood in the meeting for the community to take action.
Parallels were drawn with the campaign to save Lewisham hospital, which saw 25,000 on the streets. Hoey said: “Cllr Lib Peck (Labour leader of Lambeth Council) very much sees this as our Lewisham.”
Jon Rogers, secretary of Lambeth UNISON, which passed a motion in support of the fire-fighters at its AGM this month, warned that we must start from a position of opposing all the cuts and that we should not face a situation where the community is faced with a choice between keeping Clapham fire station at the expense of cuts to other services.
A number of local trade union branches including UNISON, NUT and PCS have already passed motions to support the campaign and any action the fire fighters take.
Across London, other stations set for closure are Bow, Kentish Town, Clerkenwell, Downham, Kingsland, Knightsbridge, New Cross, Silvertown, Southwark, Westminster and Woolwich.
The FBU at Clapham fire station will hold an open action committee meeting to discuss the campaign at Monday February 25, 7pm, at the Bread and Roses, in Clapham.
*Edit: A previous version of this story stated that Brixton Fire Station was to lose a fire appliance under the plans. This was inaccurate and was corrected at 11.20am on February 13.