14 September, 2012


Amazing what you can prove with numbers, innit?

At Liberal Conspiracy, dear old Sunny-ji, always up for a poke at the demon Right, demonstrates that BoJo (boo hiss!) plans to cut the number of fire stations in London by a third, leaving the inflammable poor of the capital in grave danger of being burnt alive in their beds.

Let's have a look-see.

While London Mayor Boris Johnson is being cheered over the Olympics and boosted in the polls, London’s Fire Brigade is being cut and dismantled.

The London Fire & Emergency Planning Authority (LFEPA) has had its budget cut by £29.5million next year and by a further £35.3million the year after. In total: £65 million.

With the cost of operating a fire station with one fire appliance at £1.4m per year, this means 15 fire stations and appliances are at risk of closure. Up to 25 next year could close next year.

For context, there are just 112 fire stations in London. In just over a year 35% of London’s stations could be shut down.

In the second para we are told the target cut in, presumably, annual budget: £65mio.

In the third para we are given a figure for the cost of operating a fire engine, including its garaging cost or, as Sunny curiously expresses it, "the cost of operating a fire station with one fire appliance". Applying this figure to the required cuts, Sunny calculates a requirement to lose 40 appliances, or possibly appliance-stations, or whatever. I make it 46, but let's write off that odd £9mio. as being for hot water, OK?

So in the fourth para, we apply the loss of 40, er, appliance-stations to the number of fire stations in London, 112, to get a potential loss of 35%.

QED. Well, up to a point Lord Hundal. In 38 years of living in London, I don't remember walking past a fire station which housed only a single appliance. In fact every station I have seen has accommodated three. OK, there may be smaller sites out in the semi-boondocks. But the basis of the calculation is immediately broken.

1 fire engine != 1 fire station

Let us delve deeper. The Een Stannat article mentioned rather dismissively by Sunny quotes 111 fire stations and a fleet of 169 'fire engines'. The Standard predicts a loss of up to 27 engines, or 16% of the fleet.

Can we go further? It is fashionable for commentators to dismiss Wikipedia as unreliable. What this really means is that a referenced Wikipedia article on a politically contentious topic doesn't match the current author's prejudices. And I guess there is a modicum of truth in the canard. But for nerdy technical stuff, Wikipedia is the absolute dog's bollocks. Here we have London Fire Brigade appliances, which precisely hits the spot.

It quotes the number of 'fire engines' as 170, with an additional 45 reserves. The difference between operational and reserve is not clarified, but I would imagine that 'operational' means vehicles on station and available for immediate deployment. 'Reserves' would presumably include vehicles undergoing refit or maintenance, being used for training, etc, as well perhaps as vehicles which could be on the streets in an hour or two if there's somebody available to drive them. So the total fleet of 'fire engines' is 215. A cut of 27 would equate to 13%.

Why do I keep referring to 'fire engines' in scare quotes? Because the figures we have been talking about so far are only for general-purpose Trumpton-stylee appliances, basically a water pump plus a selection of ladders and stuff. But the Wikipedia article lists a slew of specialized vehicles, fewer in number but all costing money and some of them possible candidates for reduction in number. And finally, if you have the patience to wade through it, somebody has winkled a complete fleet list out of the powers that be, a quick glance at which reveals a fair number of general-purpose civilian cars and vans, the numbers of which might be looked at.

Fair enough to be concerned about the effects of cuts in public services, matey, but misrepresenting the numbers quite so blatantly is well out of order.

Naughty Sunny.

A Fire engine" is powerd by steam and pulled by horses. Or do you mean fire APPLIANCES?

[Reposted] Originally posted by Furor Teutonicus to Dogwash at 15 September, 2012 07:35

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