Firefighters call on Boris Johnson to take London’s fire engines back into public ownership

Firefighters call on Boris Johnson to take London’s fire engines back into public ownership

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has called on Boris Johnson to take the capital’s fire engines back into public ownership following the announcement that yet another private company – the third in as many months – was being appointed to manage the fleet.

The London Fire Brigade today terminated the contract between itself and Premier FireServe, owned by venture capitalist Sir Aubrey Brocklebank, who assumed control of the fleet after he bought out the previous owners, crisis-hit AssetCo, for just £2 in August.

That sale provoked widespread criticism after it went through without the knowledge of senior brigade managers or politicians.

AssetCo had held the multi-million pound, 20-year privatisation contract since 2001, but offloaded to Premier FireServe after it hit a series of financial crises, leading to a sharp deterioration in its service to the London Fire Brigade. A leaked report, written by brigade managers, revealed that shortfalls had included the reduced availability of critical frontline appliances and excessive repair times. Having seen no improvement under Sir Aubrey’s company, the brigade has now passed control of the fleet to Babcock International.

Speaking today, the FBU’s regional secretary for London, Paul Embery, said: “Here we go again. Another day and another new owner of London’s fire engines. Anyone wanting to understand why privatisation of emergency services is a bad idea need look no further than the London Fire Brigade. The whole experiment of selling-off London’s fire engines to privateers has been a disaster. We’ve seen Londoners put at risk because of reduced availability of frontline appliances and resentment at fire stations as the service gets worse and worse. We’ve also seen the fleet pass from one fly-by-night outfit to another while managers and politicians look on helplessly.

“We understand also that the renewal of the fleet, planned to begin in 2014, will not now happen.

“The case for returning the fleet to public ownership is unanswerable, and we call upon the mayor of London to do so immediately.”

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