LONDON – Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson faces questions over his decision to slash London’s fire service while being the Mayor of London.
Johnson presided over the closure of 10 fire stations and the removal of 27 fire engines, despite previously promising not to remove them.
There are fears that many more tower blocks in London could be vulnerable to the type of blaze seen at the Grenfell tower.
Johnson repeatedly denied he had any plans to cut fire engines or fire stations, telling the London Assembly in 2010 that there were “no plans” to remove engines. Pressed on the issue, he said in a filmed meeting that “I don’t want to get rid of them. What’s the problem?”
When confronted by his opponents on the London Assembly about the broken promise in 2013, Johnson told Labour's Andrew Dismore to "get stuffed."
Fire crews were reportedly quick to arrive at the scene of the Grenfell fire. However, fire response times in the capital did increase following Johnson's cuts to the fire service.
In 2015 questions were raised after a man jumped to his death from a housing block in Camden after waiting for crews to arrive.
One firefighter told the Camden New Journal: "The first question we were all asking about Camden was how long did it take to get there? The answer was more than double the time we should have done. We are trained and we are told that after five or six minutes a fire can become an inferno."
He added: "Since the cutbacks, we have been stretched. It is not unusual for machines [fire engines] to be coming from much, much further afield - and we are constantly aware of that."
Current London mayor Sadiq Khan last year ordered a review of fire service cuts across London, saying that he could not be sure Londoners were safe.
"The key thing is this, are we safe as a consequence of the cuts made by the previous regime?" he said on LBC.
"The short answer is I'm not sure. I'm starting to work to make sure I can be reassured that we are safe."
Khan's review subsequently found the service had coped with the cuts.
Theresa May's new Downing Street chief Gavin Barwell is also facing questions after it emerged yesterday that he failed to release a government review of fire safety in tower blocks.