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ASSEMBLY VOTES TO CUT LONDON FIRE BRIGADE FUNDING

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Ken Livingstone has urged Londoners to lobby the London assembly to reinstate£2m from his budget for the London Fi...
Ken Livingstone has urged Londoners to lobby the London assembly to reinstate£2m from his budget for the London Fire Brigade after assembly members voted to cut the money last week.

Mr Livingstone said: 'The fire authority asked me increase the fire brigade's budget, particularly for extra cash for new chemical protection suits but the assembly has now voted to cut this money from my fire budget. Among those voting for the cut are actual members of the fire authority. This is the latest example of assembly members pressing me for extra resources and then voting to remove the very same cash from my budget.

'I would urge Londoners to lobby assembly members to reinstate this cash in my budget for the fire brigade.'

On 26 October 2001, the fire authority submitted a bid for£333m. In light of the firefighters pay award and increased pensions costs, the mayor wrote at the beginning of December saying that he was planning to increase this by£0.9m. This was accepted by the fire authority which indicated that there might be other pressures.

On 10 January fire authority chair and London assembly member Val Shawcross then wrote to the mayor requesting a further£1.2m to assist with budget pressures, particularly chemical protection suits and the capital programme.

The mayor agreed with the fire authority's request and therefore increased his fire authority budget by£2.1m in total.

On 23 January, despite speaking against a Lib Dem motion to cut the budget by£2m, Val Shawcross, chair of the fire authority, together with the rest of the Labour and Lib Dem groups voted through a proposed£2m cut in the fire brigade budget.

CALM DOWN, SAYS ASSEMBLY CHAIR

Chair of the London Assembly, Sally Hamwee, has urged that mayor Ken Livingstone stop discussions on the 2002/03 budget - hugely important for Londoners - from turning into a slanging match.

Commenting on the accusations that the assembly is cutting public services as a result of amending the mayor's draft consolidated budget, Sally Hamwee said:

'The assembly's budget proposals do not mean cuts. Indeed, they represent an increase of£92.7m above this year's. The assembly is keen to support London's vital services, but the bill to Londoners must be kept reasonable.

'But investment is not simply a question of the amount of money; the money must be spent effectively, efficiently and transparently, and according to clear objectives and targets.

'Most of the increase in budget requirement is for expenditure by Transport for London (TfL), even though the money available to TfL is already increasing next year by£311 million in additional government grant compared to 2001/02.

'These matters are hugely important for London's future and London needs calm dialogue not a slanging match.'

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