London’s Burning, Fetch The Engine…..Oh Wait, You Can’t Can You?

Please don’t think that Reform is restricted to just the Police and the NHS.  It raises its ugly head in a few more places than that, and we’re aiming to bring that information to you.

The Fire Service.  Undeniably an Emergency Service.  Undeniably there for the benefit of the Public.  Undeniably essential to all of us.  Yet, the government have seen fit to set about reforming the Fire Service as well.  In these austere times we’re not opposed to economy, efficiency and a few more buzz words.  They make perfect sense, the days of blank cheques are over, but there must surely be a minimum amount that any organisation needs to run it properly.  Certainly the Fire Service.  And so the government sets about reforming it.

Did you know that London and Lincoln have SOLD their fleet of Fire Engines to a private company, AB & A Investments for £2.  That;s right, it’s not a typo, just two of your British Pounds.  On the 17th August 2012 Commissioner of the London Fire Brigade, Ron Dobson, said:

The sale of AssetCo’s UK interests has no effect whatsoever on the London Fire Brigade or its fire engines, which continue to be maintained and available as usual. I have met with the new owners of AssetCo London, AB&A Investments Limited, and received every assurance that it is committed to maintaining and improving the service the London Fire Brigade receives.”

Really, arguably any Fire Service’s most valuable asset, the means to put out a fire, is now in the hands of a private investment company.  Some of you may think “that’s a good idea, put them in the hands of a City Investment Company, they’ll be safe there, it may even be good for the Fire Service“.

Maybe you’re right, but this is what one commentator had to say on the subject;

The company has been operating for only a month, has not filed any accounts and as a private limited company has no obligation to provide full details to the Stock Exchange or to LFEPA. The Chairman of AB & A Investments is Sir Aubrey Thomas Brocklebank, Bt. He has been the Director of 69 Companies. 5 of which have been in liquidation, and 38 have been dissolved:

Of the companies of which he is still a Director, 3 are in liquidation. No other directors are listed whatsoever.

I understand that Sir Aubrey is chairman of bingo hall owner Top Ten Holdings and that his only obviously apparent connection with a vehicle fleet is that he owns his own 2CV racing team, “Twin Snails”. I also understand that he sits on eight venture capital trust boards, with links to stockbrokers Close Brothers and Hargreave Hale.

Still think this is a good idea?  Still think our Fire Engines are safe with this company?

The assistant general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, Andy Dark, said;

The foolish decision taken in 2001 to hand over the fire engines to AssetCo was opposed by the FBU. At every stage in this hideous saga, I and my colleagues have witnessed an appalling catalogue of failures.

This latest episode which has seen the fleet sold to another company for a reported £2 is a national scandal. London Fire Brigade serves 7 million people, and we understand that they were simply notified of the decision.

These are public assets over which the London Fire Brigade and the elected politicians have no control. They must be brought back into public ownership under direct local authority control.

The fire appliances concerned, in London at least, were already owned by a 3rd party company, Assetco.  This obviously isn’t a perfect scenario but at least Assetco were a specialist company providing fire and rescue services, not a City Investment company with no proven track record.

Firefighters wages make up over three-quarters of fire and rescue service budgets, so cuts to fire service funding invariably mean cuts to firefighters jobs. But it is only professional firefighters who can put out fires, deal with other emergencies and rescue people safely. Fewer firefighters puts the public at greater risk of injury and death. That’s why the Fire Brigades Union says “cuts cost lives”.

This document here will show you how the government’s cuts are affecting YOU.

This document here will show you what cuts are planned for where YOU live

On top of this, Fire Stations all across the UK are in danger of closing.  Warwickshire, for example, is set to lose 3 Fire Stations at Brinklow, Studley and Warwick.

The council has said the changes were not designed to cut costs but to improve services. However, the Fire Brigades Union said the result was “not good” for the fire service.

So now, closing Fire Stations improves your service.  Another example of spin?  I hadn’t thought of it in those terms I must confess.

Additionally, up to 15 Fire Stations are at risk of closure in London alone.

Enough information there to whet your appetite and demonstrate, quite conclusively I feel, that this government are being quite reckless with the population.  So far The Big Picture has featured Police, NHS and Fire, and all are being cut back savagely and expected to do at least as much, if not more, with less.

Whilst we don’t pretend that it’s not an issue, the real issue is not about pay and pensions it’s about PUBLIC SAFETY.   Pay, Pensions, working conditions – they’re all important, but your safety is more so, and in my opinion this charade of a government is playing fast and loose with our lives, your lives.

Don’t have nightmares, that probably isn’t smoke that you can smell, but if it is, just pray that your local Fire Station hasn’t been closed and that it has enough engines.

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