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Pickles sides with Boris over fire closures

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Communities secretary Eric Pickles has indicated that he will not block the fire service closures planned by London mayor Boris Johnson, in a move that raises the prospect of a judicial review from local authorities.

Eight London boroughs have asked Mr Pickles to force Mr Johnson to revoke his plans, under which 10 fire stations will be closed and 14 fire engines and 552 operational posts will be lost. The communities secretary could block the move using his legal power to direct the mayor.

Announcing the intervention yesterday, the councils said they would mount a legal challenge if Mr Pickles refused.

However, a spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government told LGC: “Decisions about fire stations are a local matter.”

Officials at the department have also pointed to comments by Mr Johnson that London “will still have the best fire cover of any big city”, and noted that London’s fire brigade is the mayor’s responsibility.

A spokeswoman for Southwark LBC, one of the eight authorities that have challenged the closures, told LGC it had not had an official response from Mr Pickles. However, she said, the councils had already agreed to pursue a judicial review if the communities secretary did not block the closures.

Mr Johnson said his plans would “ensure that more boroughs across the city are brought within the fire brigade’s target response times” and would make the fire service financially sustainable.

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