The Guardian December 6, 2000

London's fire engines to be privatised

The London Fire Authority last week decided to privatise London's fleet 
of 540 fire engines and two boats in an attempt to save money.

The authority has awarded a L314 million 20-year contract to supply and 
service new vehicles and maintain the existing fleet to Lattice, a firm 
which operates Britain's gas pipeline network.

The deal has been secured under the Private Finance Initiative and has been 
welcomed by the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority.

The fire authority says the deal was essential as the only way to replace 
London's ageing fire fleet.

The authority is resorting to this measure in desperation and through lack 
of funds. But in the long-term it will cost tax payers far more.

Mick Shore of the London Fire Brigade Union told the New Worker said 
they were "very concerned that as a result of Government spending policy, 
the only way the fire authority can see to get new engines is to hand it 
all over to the private sector....

"The fire authority is happy because it is getting L43 million (approx 
$110m) from the Government it would not have got otherwise. But that could 
have been given direct to buy new engines."

It is also likely to lead to cuts in the standards of service and 
maintenance. The private company cannot do the job more cheaply than the 
authority itself is doing and still make profits.

Londoners will still be paying through the nose for this deal in 20 years 
time while the company continues to make profits.

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Acknowledgements: Caroline Colebrook, New Worker

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