Fire Brigades Union

Fire Brigades Union

July 22, 2011 08:38 ET

FIRE SALE-High Court Hears Fire Engine Owners Face Liquidation, Administration or Takeover

LONDON, ENGLAND--(Marketwire - July 22, 2011) - AssetCo, the private owners of London and Lincolnshire's fire engines, face liquidation, administration or takeover at the High Court on Monday 25 July. The company faces collapse owing £140 million and is being pursued by creditors for the debts.

The High Court will hear the future is either liquidation, voluntary administration or a takeover. The Fire Brigades Union said the AssetCo saga flags up the dangers of involving the private sector in public services.

Creditors could seize assets and the fire engines and kit could be forfeited and sold off in full or part to any fire service in the world. Without direct ownership of their appliances, both fire brigades are in a state of uncertainty as to what happens next.

London Fire Brigade privatised the ownership and maintenance of London's fire engines and 50,000 pieces of rescue and safety kit in 2001 in a PFI deal. AssetCo has a similar arrangement with Lincolnshire fire service. In the event of a takeover the fire brigades have no control over who their fire engines are sold on to and similar concerns arise under voluntary administration.

Matt Wrack, FBU General Secretary said: "Handing over all London and Lincolnshire's fire engines and rescue kit to the private sector has been a disaster. London and Lincolnshire fire services have been living in denial about the crisis and the uncertainty they are facing.

"The simple fact is that both fire brigades are left sitting on the sidelines as the future of their entire operational fleet is set out before the High Court. They do not have properly thought out fallback plans to deal with all the options put before the High Court.

"There is no certainty over who will own the fire engines and all the safety and rescue kit by Monday evening. And there is no certainty who, if anyone, will be maintaining those appliances and kit on Tuesday morning.

"This uncertainty is not a situation which any fire brigade wants to find itself in, it's a disaster. The very limited assurances we have heard so far are little more than hoping it all turns out all right on the night.

"This is an embarrassment to both fire brigades. You can't run great public services with the involvement of private companies which bring such instability and uncertainty, it doesn't work."

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