Extreme Weather Events and the London Fire Brigade

Questions to the Mayor of London – answered on 29th November 2021.

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Photo of Anne Clarke Anne Clarke Labour

Your Spending Review submission covered extreme weather events and said, “Failure to maintain real-terms funding will push LFB’s capacity to deal with these incidents”. Did the Spending Review deliver the £3 million a year increase in baseline funding you had requested?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

I have not yet received the full details of the CSR settlement from the Government. I expect to do so in December [2021]. The £3 million per year increase in baseline funding was proposed specifically to address safety in the built environment to help the Brigade keep Londoners safe. As the LFB helps to respond to extreme weather events, my submission called on the Government to maintain real-terms funding so that the LFB’s capacity to meet the increasing challenges of climate change is not reduced.

The heavy rain that occurred in July this year [2021], which caused serious flooding across London, demonstrated the impact of incidents caused by extreme weather events. Over a four-hour period the LFB received 1,755 calls related to flash flooding and attended 1,430 incidents as a result. The impact of climate change means that incidents caused by extreme weather are projected to become increasingly common. Maintaining real-terms funding for the LFB would help ensure that firefighters are equipped to protect Londoners both now and in the future. Currently the LFB is able to deal with incidents caused by extreme weather, as demonstrated by its response to the flooding events in July.

The LFB has conducted a flood response project to identify new equipment and training requirements, as well as how the LFB collaborates with local partners during flooding incidents. All London firefighters are trained in water rescue, and the LFB has 24 specially trained officers who can provide advice in anticipation of severe weather warnings and a range of specialist equipment to cope with more frequent sudden rainfall. It is essential, though, that the response capability in London is maintained and I will work with allies and the [London Fire] Commissioner, as well as the Deputy Mayor [for Fire and Resilience], to make sure we are in the best position to do so.

Photo of Anne Clarke Anne Clarke Labour

Thank you for your recognition of this. This is causing a lot of concern. Thank you also to the LFB which continues to work really hard throughout very challenging times.

Mr Mayor, there is clear evidence that climate-related events are increasing significantly from year to year and that these climate change trends are likely to intensify over the coming years. Is the Government aware of the burden this places on the LFB?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

At the moment, no. One of the jobs that we have to do is to persuade it why it is important. I will give you a simple example of where the Government does not. Put aside the LFB for a second. The Environment Agency gives funding for flooding, but it tends to be for flooding caused around coastal parts of the country or the rivers. It does not take into account the flash flooding we saw in London this summer and does not take into account the impact that has on the LFB, the MPS and others as well. We have to make sure the Government realises the impact it has. If we are going to respond, we need to have the resources to do so.

Photo of Anne Clarke Anne Clarke Labour

Yes, absolutely. Thank you. Has the LFB identified what financial support will be required over the coming years to deal with this increase in extreme weather events and, as you have talked about, the specialist equipment they may require?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

Yes, that is a really good question. The LFB, just to reassure Londoners, is in a good position for now. The LFB needs help, though, for the future and the near future.

This July [2021] I have deliberately mentioned the number of calls they received and the incidents they referred to. That gives you an idea of the scale of the challenge they had. At one stage, the control room could not cope with the number of calls being received because of the flash flooding. Notwithstanding working closely with the Met Office in relation to weather forecasts and so forth, we will need more equipment. By the way, we give mutual aid, and we help other parts of the country as well. It is really important that we support them where we can.

We cannot do it alone, though, as London. We need the Government and the Home Office to step in and help out. What the [London Fire] Commissioner has done is to give a case explaining the equipment we need, and we are asking the Government for its support.

Photo of Anne Clarke Anne Clarke Labour

Thank you, Mr Mayor. Thank you, Chair.