I read with horror a comment in the blog by GLA Tory Roger Evans. Mr Evans is the GLA rep for Havering and Redbridge and was until last year the leader of the Tory Group. Mr Evans is highly respected and a very decent sort of chap. Unlike his colleague, Brian Coleman in Barnet, he keeps his voters informed of progress at the GLA via his interesting and informative blog.
Whilst reading this blog (for those of us with a rather lazy rep such as Coleman, it is the only way to keep up to date with shenanigans at the GLA) I read that Brian Coleman, who was given the job of running the London Fire and Emergency planning authority, has cut the reserves for dealing with disasters to £24 million - the comment is in the is blog on Mr Evans site http://city-hall.blogspot.com/2012/01/budget-round-opening-skirmishes.html . The reserves have been whittled down to virtually nothing, to help freeze council tax and to prop up the Met Police budget.
Let us consider what they have to look after.According to wikipedia, there are nearly 8 million people in greater London. The Fire brigade are responsible for safety on the London Underground and Overground networks. Millions of people commute on a daily basis through the city. Trains, Buses and Tubes all carry millions. We have a dozen major railway terminals, and we also have two airports, one of which is the worlds busiest international airport. All of these hubs are under constant threat from numerous and diverse terror groups and all have a history of attacks.
Then there is the River Thames. This has a history of flooding, which the Thames Barrier was constructed to prevent. Whilst this has been used several times in the last two decades to prevent major floods, there is a possibility that this could fail and inundate London. Who would cover this emergency? The LFEPA. Does anyone seriously believe that £24 million would cover the costs of responding to such an emergency?
And then there is the timing. We have the Olympics this year. Although I hope to God it runs smoothly and have a high degree of faith in our security services and Police, it is clear to all that every nutcase in the world would like to cause havoc in London at this time. What has Coleman done? He's cut the reserves in the year in our history when they are most likely to be needed.
Not only that but he's thinned down the organisation. Does the man not realise that the less resources you have, the more reserves you need. Roger Evans says this in his blog :-
He may well be reassured by Brian Coleman that this is enough. I am far from convinced. Sadly only a terrible tragedy would prove me right and I hope to God that doesn't happen. I cannot help but feel scared by this man and his disregard for his fellow citizens. He is up for election in May. Need I say more. He gets £50K a year for his part time GLA job and £25K a year from Boris to run LFEPA. It is time we got someone who understood London.Fire Brigade
Under Brian Coleman, LFEPA has made considerable savings and has even helped to bail out the police budget this year. Reserves have been cut to £24 million which we were assured is sufficient to cover unexpected costs. Training is being contracted out and this is expected to deliver further cost reductions.