Fire Brigades Union

Fire Brigades Union

December 15, 2008 07:53 ET

London Fire Chief Under Fire for "Time Wasting" Jibe

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM--(Marketwire - Dec. 15, 2008) - Fire Brigades Union (FBU) leaders in London have called on the chairman of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority (LFEPA) to consider his position, after he labelled as "dizzy" and an "airhead" a woman MP who dialled 999 when sparks began to fly from her boiler.

Conservative councillor Brian Coleman's remarks were branded "sexist" by Lynne Featherstone, Liberal Democrat member of parliament for Hornsey and Wood Green, who said she intends to protest to the London Fire Brigade commissioner, Ron Dobson.

Ms Featherstone was in her house late at night with her two daughters when the boiler began to violently shake and emit sparks. Fearing an explosion, she evacuated the house and called the fire brigade.

The incident came to light after Ms Featherstone wrote an entry on her website blog, in which she praised firefighters for their actions.

However, Cllr Coleman accused Ms Featherstone of wasting brigade time and said she should have called a plumber instead. "She has shown herself to be completely dizzy. Airheads and airlocks are obviously not unrelated. She can't tell the difference between an airlock and a major catastrophe," Coleman told the Daily Mail.

Cllr Coleman also suggested Ms Featherstone send a cheque to the London Fire Brigade in recompense for the incident, in what would be a break with centuries of tradition of the fire service being free at the point of use for members of the public.

However, the FBU has slammed Cllr Coleman for engaging in cheap political point-scoring and dispensing erroneous advice. The union warned that his comments may discourage other members of the public from dialling 999 for fear of being accused of wasting brigade time. A spokesman for the London Fire Brigade also contradicted Cllr Coleman's comments by making clear that Ms Featherstone acted correctly.

The FBU's regional secretary for London, Joe MacVeigh, said, "To put narrow political considerations before public safety, as Councillor Coleman has done, is unpardonable. Any firefighter will tell you that Ms Featherstone did absolutely the right thing, and, by publicly condemning her, Councillor Coleman has raised question marks about his own suitability for office.

"You cannot have the head of London's fire authority blundering around instructing people not to call the fire brigade when they have perfectly good reason to. The huge amount of time that our members spend on educating the public about fire safety can turn to dust with crass remarks like these."

Mr MacVeigh also condemned the sexist nature of Councillor Coleman's comments. "As the head of LFEPA, Councillor Coleman has a duty to promote sound equalities and diversity policies. He even recently claimed that the London Fire Brigade was 'taking the lead on equality issues'. If an ordinary firefighter had said such things to a female colleague, he would almost certainly have been facing disciplinary action. It seems to me that Councillor Coleman needs to decide whether he wants to be a serious politician or whether he wants to continue as City Hall's resident joker."

Contact Information

  • Fire Brigades Union
    Paul Embery
    07854 998508