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Johnson's fire cuts claim oldest station

Historic Clerkenwell station closed for good

The country's oldest fire station was among a total of 10 fire brigade facilities closed yesterday amid savage Tory cuts to public safety in London.

Firefighters were in tears as they left historic 140-year-old Clerkenwell station for the last time.

Supporters clapped as the firemen and women left in civilian clothes because - adding insult to injury - bosses forbade them to wear their uniforms.

Alex Badcock, who has worked at the station for 29 years, broke down as he left the building.

He said: "This is a sad, sad day. London Mayor Boris Johnson doesn't know what he's doing."

The closures aim to save millions of pounds at the expense of safety in the densely populated capital and a campaign has been started to save Clerkenwell station from being immediately converted to luxury flats.

The London brigade is also cutting 552 firefighter jobs and reducing the number of fire engines by 14 to meet budget savings of £45 million over the next two years.

Fire Brigades Union London regional secretary Paul Embery said: "Boris Johnson will have blood on his hands. It will be only a matter of time before someone dies because a fire engine did not get to them in time.

"You cannot close 10 fire stations and slash nearly 600 firefighter jobs without compromising public safety. These stations have protected generations of Londoners, and they are as necessary now as they ever were."

The fire stations closing are at Belsize, Bow, Clerkenwell, Downham, Kingsland, Knightsbridge, Silvertown, Southwark, Westminster and Woolwich.

A legal challenge to the closures, mounted by seven London boroughs last year, failed so the cuts will go ahead, leaving 102 fire stations and 155 engines.

London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority chairman James Cleverly said: "The brigade is faced with significant budget cuts which mean that changes to the service are inevitable and we are able to make those changes without compulsory redundancies.

"The firefighters based at the stations closing will now transfer to other stations and continue the excellent work they do to prevent fires, which is vital in changing the behaviours that start fires in the first place."


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