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Labour intervention keeps Kingston’s second fire engine

Labour councillor’s intervention helps keep Kingston’s second fire engine 

The importance of Labour councillors prepared to listen, work and talk to the right people on behalf of Kingston residents, was no-where more in evidence than in the case of the second fire-engine in Kingston. 

It seemed to be straightforward. Move Kingston’s second fire engine to the New Malden fire station at Shannon Corner (which is situated in Merton) and re-assign the big flood pump to Kingston. This would lead to improved response times around the New Malden Fire Station and in Merton and some poorer response times in parts of Kingston and Richmond. This was all part of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority’s (LFEPA) formal consultation on the draft London Safety Plan.

Kingston Council’s Leader of Council and Chief Officer were both informed of the consultation but that information wasn’t passed onto other councillors or put up on the Council’s website.

It was through a meeting at the Kingston Fire Station to which local councillors, including Labour Councillor Linsey Cottington, were invited, that we were made aware of the proposed poorer local response times.

The Kingston fire fighters and the Fire Brigade’s Union (FBU) whose offices are coincidentally, situated in Kingston were not convinced about local response times which had been based on computer modelling carried out by a private consultancy firm. In fact, five wards in Kingston and parts of Richmond would have much slower response times with the second fire engine moving to New Malden, potentially putting lives at risk. It appeared from local knowledge that the response time modelling had not taken account of increased traffic whilst over-stating the time taken to navigate the rotunda which has an emergency lane for these situations, a fact that does not necessarily show up on a computer.

Kingston & Surbiton Labour Party members tweeted about the resident co-sponsored petition on Change.com (co-sponsored by a local Labour Party member) and told residents about the loss of the fire engine in the latest Norbiton Rose.  

Some political parties seem to think asking you to sign a petition and give them your e-mail address is a substitute for political action, but a petition on its own is never enough. The case has to be taken and made to those who have responsibility for the decisions. Linsey and local Labour Party colleague Liz Meerabeau met with the Labour Chair of LFEPA and GLA Assembly Member, Dr Fiona Twycross, to discuss the potential loss of the fire engine in Kingston.  

Because of the action of residents and fire fighters from the FBU, and because Labour councillors identified and took up the case on behalf of the community, the move of the second fire engine has been reprieved and will be reviewed again in 12 months. This is to ensure that the response times for the second fire engine are within the target times.

Linsey said: "It's very important that we fight for frontline services in Kingston. This is a huge victory. We are glad that the LFEPA has been listening to residents and Kingston fire fighters - we've done a huge amount of work on this. The loss of that fire engine would have been a serious blow to services in our area." 

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