Sunday, 14 February 2010

Coleman under fire

Angry protestors outside the fire station on Thursday

Harold Hill welcomed Brian Coleman with open arms and clenched fists on Thursday (11 February). 

Brandishing 'Coleman Must Go' placards, firefighters chose the opening of a new 'state-of-the-art' fire station at Harold Hill in east London to vent their anger at Coleman's plans to introduce new 12-hour shift patterns. 

Councillor Coleman (no relation, I stress), chairman of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority, wants firefighters to work 11,12 and 13-hour shifts including shorter nights and longer days. Other plans include cutting fire engine crews from five to four and removing beds from fire stations. Apparently, in the interests of modernisation, Harold Hill station replaces beds with reclining chairs. "I'm entirely relaxed that we are making London a safer place for all Londoners," said Coleman.

"No change is not an option," said Coleman afterwards. Industrial action could follow, said the Fire Brigades Union. Photos of an entirely relaxed Coleman (absolutely no relation), nabbing forty winks in his office, circulated after the firefighters' protest (above). Posters featuring Coleman were removed from London fire stations on the orders of Fire Brigade chiefs (below). 

Understandably, people in London are worried about possible fires to come. Argument between the three main political parties is confined to the level of cuts most politicians seem to agree must be made to public services to re-balance the city's economy. Accident and emergency, maternity units and rail maintenance jobs are all in the firing line. Redundancies, the fear of redundancy and new working conditions, imposed in the name of 'efficiency' and 'modernisation', cramp peoples' lives and shrinks ambitions across the city.

As the election nears, many voters are reflecting that Prime Minister Gordon Brown's government bailed out the bankers in the City of London with billions of pounds of taxpayers' money. Yet, by all accounts (please excuse the pun), the banks are still not lending that money to help new and existing businesses whilst the bankers pay themselves massive bonuses once again. 

Meanwhile, as the announcement of a date for the next general election looms, Gordon Brown appears on a national TV, interviewed by Piers Morgan, to apparently convince working people that he's a regular good guy who deserves their votes.

Postscript: London Mayor Boris Johnson officially opened the Harold Hill fire station, a project that was initiated during the reign of his predecessor, Ken Livingstone. Faced by the protesting firefighters, our beloved Mayor left by a back entrance. 

Top photo: Romford Recorder

Paul Coleman, London, February 2010.

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