'Hammer blow' dealt to Hackney's emergency services
PUBLISHED: 17:37 16 January 2013 | UPDATED: 17:37 16 January 2013
This week has seen Hackney’s emergency services taking a “hammer blow”, as plans to mothball both police and fire stations look set to become reality.
The fire station in Kingsland Road, Haggerston has now officially been named as one of 12 stations across the capital earmarked for closure, under plans by London Fire Brigade (LFB) to save £28.2million over the next two years.
The announcement follows the leaking in October of a list of stations the LFB was considering closing – which included Kingsland, one of four fire stations in the borough.
Speaking at the time, London Fire Brigade Commissioner, Ron Dobson, dismissed the claims, saying: “Ongoing reports of individual stations closing are nothing but unfounded, sensationalised scare stories.”
Meanwhile it was also confirmed Hackney Police Station is also pinpointed for closure, as part of the Met’s bid to make half a billion pounds worth of savings by 2016.
The Grade II-listed building in Lower Clapton Road is one of three stations in the borough presently open 24 hours a day.
Under the cost-cutting plans, the opening hours of Shoreditch Police Station, Shepherdess Walk, will reduce to 40 a week.
Only Stoke Newington police station in the High Street would remain open constantly.
MP Diane Abbott called the double whammy a “hammer blow” for Hackney residents.
“I fear that we’ll see civilian casualties rise, firefighter injuries go up and arson incidents increase.”
“Hackney is one of the victims of the way this government is ripping into frontline policing” added the MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington.
“Ministers have unfairly distributed cuts so areas like Hackney and those with the highest incident rates are being hit the hardest.”
Fire incidents in Hackney are 35 per cent higher than the London borough average of 3,328, and campaigners claim the closure of the fire station would increase response times and put residents’ lives at risk.
In the last year the fire brigade in Hackney attended around 4,500 incidents, and Kingsland Road responded to 720 of these, equating to 16 per cent.
Clerkenwell fire station in the neighbouring borough of Islington is also earmarked for closure, and if approved the plans will see the loss of 520 front line firefighter jobs across the capital.
Following a consultation, the proposed changes to the LFB could be implemented from this autumn.
Vice-chair of Hackney Liberal Democrats Pauline Pearce, otherwise known as the Hackney Heroine for standing up to yobs during the 2011 riots, said it makes no sense to shut down fire stations when the population is growing and people are living in taller buildings packed closer together.
“The Tories at City Hall are crackers if they think this is how you represent vulnerable communities,” she said.
But the LFB says they are attending half as many fires as a decade ago, and the proposals would still enable them to meet response time targets of getting its first fire engine to an emergency within six minutes and the second fire engine, if needed, within eight minutes.
Meanwhile the Met claims it can achieve a new “open” approach by replacing outdated and underused properties with more modern strategies of meeting members of the public.
Hackney Police Station is not currently ‘fit for purpose’ and does not presently comply with disability access requirements.
The consultation ends on March 6 and the final plans will be published in April.