Article @ Anticapitalist Initiative, published 9 January 2014
As the Southwark Fire Station started its last day, locals and supporters assembled this morning in solidarity with the firefighter’s struggle.
People of all ages gathered at the front of the station, together with the morning crew, holding large ‘thank you’ signs and other supporting banners. Some sympathizing union flags were also to be seen.
It was most of all the sorrowful farewell of a community to another part of their local services being shut down by the draconian ‘austerity’ policies of the Tory government. The closure of Southwark Fire Station is not a singular event. Ten further stations will be shut under London Mayor, Boris Johnson, £45m cuts, the equivalent to 588 jobs being lost in the capital’s fire services.
Borough Commander, Andy Snazell, said this morning:
“This is a very sad day. This has been a fire station here for more than 100 years and is being closed as part of the revised London Safety Plan. So it is a sad day for a fire station that has been here for so long, with so much history.”
The station is a vital part of the health and safety services provided to the south London community. Commander Snazell added, “The station serves the whole of the borough of Southwark, plus parts of the City, plus parts into Lambeth, so it doesn’t just serve the local area, it serves surrounding areas as well.”
He also explained how one needs to remember that a great stretch of the daily commute into the City from the South comes through Southwark. The Tube’s Northern Line alone has a weekday average of 660,000 passengers, four of its stops in Southwark. Similarly, the borough homes another 15 Tube and train stations that are well known for overflowing during rush-hour. The Fire Brigades Union regional secretary, Paul Embery, estimated that
“It will be only a matter of time before someone dies because a fire engine did not get to them”.
Other stations to close today are Woolwich, Belsize and Clarkenwell – the oldest fire station in Europe, open since 1873.