Private sponsors sought for London fire crews

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The Independent Online
Fire engines and stations in London will soon be sponsored and bear the logos of industry as the capital's fire brigade grapples with a pounds 25m shortfall in its budget over the next three years.

The London Fire and Civil Defence Authority, responsible for the London Fire Brigade (LFB), is so concerned about its lack of funds that it has advertised in Marketing Weekly inviting "tenders for public sponsorship" of its assets, including fire engines, stations and clothing.

It is all a long way from Trumpton. Pugh, Pugh, Barney McGrew and company may soon wear Armani uniforms, ride in a sponsored engine and use hoses sponsored by water companies. The LFB has been forced to seek sponsorship because of cuts and its pension fund, which takes up a fifth of its annual pounds 272m budget. "There has been a lot of hand-wringing over this decision," said a LFB spokesman. "It has been taken reluctantly but reality has set in." The LFB, funded by government grant and a precept on the council tax, hopes to have sponsorship secured by the end of the year.

Earlier this year, the LFB withdrew 12 appliances to save costs. The LFB employs 5,900 fire-fighters who use 170 engines at 113 stations across Greater London. It costs pounds 500,000 to run an engine and its crew each year.

The advert says there is an "ethical and propriety consideration" in private sponsorship, but "we are prepared to consider anything apart from things that might reduce our credibility". Andy Gilchrist, national officer for the Fire Brigades Union, said the move would be opposed.

"We need a properly and publicly funded brigade. You can't be dependent on private industry which will pull out if profits are down."

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