Unions slam "outrageous" costing as London Fire Brigade's spend on Havering estate revealed
PUBLISHED: 07:01 22 January 2019 | UPDATED: 11:06 24 January 2019
London Fire Brigade is set to spend almost £400,000 on upgrades to Havering's fire stations over four years - including £150,000 on a kitchen.
Freedom of Information data obtained by the Recorder showed the brigade has shelled out a total of £11.8m in upgrades to its estate since 2015, with £165,865 so far paid out of a planned £397,683 in Havering.
The Fire Brigades Union has slammed the “ludicrous” amount spent on works across the board after firefighters have faced years of real-terms pay cuts.
But an LFB spokesmann insisted the works were justified, saying its stations “require robust and industrial-standard equipment as they are in constant use and must be built to last”.
At Wennington Fire Station, the brigade is set to pay £152,238 for a new kitchen – the first refurb of its kind for 15 years.
It is being installed by H&V Building Services and is currently in the retention period.
Another firm, B Nokes, received £27,770 to replace the boundary fence and wall and £58,524 for fire safety works.
Elsewhere, LFB forked out £26,333 for a full redecoration of Romford Fire Station and is due to pay regular contractors Smith & O’Sullivan up to £41,027 for a similar job in Harold Hill.
In recent years firefighters have been subject to a one per cent pay cap in line with other public sector workers, and in 2018 were offered a 2pc pay increase, compared to 3.5pc for teachers and some NHS staff.
A London-based firefighter, who asked not to be named, said: “Wennington is a dinky little fire station right on the edge of London.
“If you walk in now it’s reasonably smart, but even to my untrained eye it’s just perfectly functional and OK. To spend that amount of money seems beyond outrageous.”
Across London, the brigade spent £1.2m re-fitting its Union Street headquarters, including £134,510 on the shower rooms and £222,848 on replacement chillers that took one day to install.
The re-fit took place so that the brigade could sublet part of the buildings and by 2015 had already led to £9.8m being raised in revenue from the tenant.
It is forecast to spend £87,000 on waterless urinals for 41 sites and £584,000 on electric charge points for its fire engines.
A small cluster of companies have received the lion’s share of high-value works, with six firms receiving almost £6m for their work across the estate.
At Poplar Fire Station, a firm charged £30 to remove two toasters from their boxes and plug them in.
Gareth Beeton, London regional chairman of the Fire Brigades Union, said members had raised concerns about work at their local stations.
Mr Beeton said: “In this time of restricted budgets from central government, it’s absolutely outrageous they are spending all this money.
“How are they deciding who needs to do the work and how to get the best deal?
“It seems ludicrous how much they are spending on small jobs, and bizarre how they allocate them.”
A London Fire Brigade spokesman said LFB cannot use the money raised from capital for non-capital projects, so money for refurbishing fire stations cannot be diverted to staff payment.
The spokesman said: “Firefighter pay is based on a national framework and individual fire and rescue services have to work within these structures.
“All contracts follow a competitive tendering process common to all GLA organisations.”
In respect of the toasters: “The main contractor was responsible for accepting delivery, unpack, install and verify the operation of new kitchen appliances.
“They were also responsible of disposing all packaging and therefore have to hold a waste transfer licence.”
Barry Nokes, director of B Nokes, said the works had come about as a result of a competitive tender exercise, adding that if his firm had won the majority of tenders, it was because it offered the best value for money.
He added: “As a small contractor, I would regard this is a positive achievement, having successfully tendered for the works that we have completed and being giving the opportunity to compete against other companies, where 95% of my work force is based in North East London, it is undoubtedly good for local jobs.”