Posts Tagged ‘FBU’

Fire Service Cuts Cost Lives – 2013

Thursday, July 18th, 2024

Fire Service Cuts Cost Lives: On Thursday 18th July 2013 I photographed a march and rally by the Fire Brigades Union in London against cuts proposed by then London Mayor Boris Johnson. He had in 2010 repeatedly denied that he would make any cuts to London’s fire services, but the cuts which this protest was against led to the closure of ten fire stations in Greater London and the loss of over 550 firefighters in the force.

Fire Service Cuts Cost Lives

There was also a loss of the number of fire engines, at first of 14, but followed later by another 13, a cut of around 15%. Unsurprisingly the response times to fires across the capital increased. The first fire engine should arrive within six minutes of a fire being reported, and in late 2014 the figures showed that this was exceeded in around a third of London’s wards. Although the average increase in response times was only 12 seconds, in the worst case it went up by two minutes and 48 seconds.

Fire Service Cuts Cost Lives
Matt Wrack, General Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union

Fast response to fires is essential in saving lives and cutting damage to properties, and although fortunately few lives are lost to fire in London thanks to our firefighters it seems that there was at least one fatality in the following year which was widely attributed to a slower response time. As I wrote in 2013, “7 out of 10 Londoners think that the Mayor’s proposed cuts will put public safety at risk, and the remaining 3 are just not thinking.”

Fire Service Cuts Cost Lives

In our great 2017 tragedy at Grenfell Tower, the fire service responded promptly, but it took over half an hour for a turntable ladder to arrive, and at the time the LFB only had ladders that reached under half way up that building. They called in a taller ladder from Surrey which took several hours to arrive. The LFB finally got its first 64m turntable ladder, the tallest in the UK, in 2021.

Fire Service Cuts Cost Lives
A Scottish band from Hull sponsored by the FBU and a photo of Boris

Appropriately the march began at The Monument, a 202ft column topped by a bright brass ball of fire erected shortly after the 1666 Great Fire of London as a permanent memorial to the event.

Fire-fighters, many in uniform, and supporters gathered in the area around, along with a fire engine and a small marching band with bagpipes sponsored by an FBU branch. London’s own firefighters were supported by some for other brigades, including at least a couple from the New York Fire Department as well as retired fire-fighters and anti-cuts protesters.

When the march which went across London Bridge to the London Fire Brigade HQ in Southwark for a rally outside where the cuts were being decided at a Fire Authority meeting I had gone up on top of the fire engine.

What I hadn’t realised was that I would be unable to get down until the end of the march, and although it gave me a good viewpoint it was in some ways a limiting one. I always like to take most of my pictures close to people using wide-angle lenses and during the march was unable to do so. And when the marchers sat down briefly to block London Bridge I could only watch from a distance.

I’d also not realised how much vibration there would be on the top of the fire engine, where we were in a fairly small enclosure made with scaffolding tubing on its top. I found myself having to hang on tightly in some of the bumpier parts of the roads, while trying to take pictures largely one-handed.

It was a rather uncomfortable and just a little scary experience, but it did take me close to some of those who had come to first and second floor windows to applaud the protest as it went past. But I was very pleased when we came to a stop at the Fire Brigade HQ and I could get back to ground.

You can read more about the rally at the end of the march and a long list of the speakers on My London Diary and there are photographs of most or all of them as well as many more from the event.

Fire Service March Against Cuts


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Shaker, Job Centres, Firefighters, Tube, Lambeth

Sunday, February 25th, 2024

Shaker, Job Centres, Firefighters, Tube, Lambeth – On Wednesday 25th February I photographed a number of protests in London, starting in Westminster with the Free Shaker Aamer campaign, striking firefighters and welfare rights activists, then with tube workers at Edgware Road and finally outside Lambeth Town Hall in Brixton.


Free Shaker Aamer – Parliament Square

Shaker, Job Centres, Firefighters, Tube, Lambeth

A protest opposite Parliament called for the urgent release of London resident Shaker Aamer from Guantanamo, where he has been held and regularly abused for 13 years without charge or trial.

Shaker, Job Centres, Firefighters, Tube, Lambeth

The Free Shaker Aamer Campaign had been holding weekly protests opposite Parliament whenever it was in session to remind government of the need for act over his release. He had long been cleared for release but was still held in the illegal prison camp with both US and UK governments dragging their feet as his testimony would be embarrassing to their security agencies, making clear their involvement in torture.

Shaker, Job Centres, Firefighters, Tube, Lambeth

The protest was longer than usual as an international event was taking place at the nearby QEII centre and they wanted to remind delegates there of Shaker’s torture and imprisonment. Eventually the long campaign of protests by this and other groups led the UK government they needed to back his release in practice and he was finally released on 30th October 2015.

More pictures: Free Shaker Aamer at Parliament


Striking Firefighters block traffic – Westminster

Shaker, Job Centres, Firefighters, Tube, Lambeth

Firefighters in England held a 24 hour strike on 25th Feb 2015 against the unworkable pension scheme the government intended to implement. They say that the devolved governments had recognised the problems in the scheme and made improvements but in England government ministers were refusing to talk with the union, simply ignoring requests for meetings. They accused the government of lies about the union, saying they were being labelled as militants despite them being ready and willing to enter into negotiations at any time.

After a rally in Westminster Central Hall, several thousand striking firefighters protested on the street outside Parliament before marching to Downing St. Their protest brought all traffic in the area to a standstill until they marched away.

They stopped outside Downing Street and refused to move, saying they would wait there until someone came out to talk to them. A senior police officer come to talk with Matt Wrack and the other FBU leaders there and was extrememly politie, taking Wrack’s mobile number before going away to see if anyone could be persuaded to come out from Downing St to meet the protesters.

I left them leaning on the barriers and looking into Downing Street waiting for someone to come and see them, though I doubted if anyone would ever emerge.

The Fire Service has also suffered like other public services from government cuts; in London these led to Mayor Boris Johnson making dangerous reductions, closing some fire stations and reducing equipment and staffing, which left the London Fire Brigade ill-equipped to deal with major disasters such as the Grenfell fire.

The FBU union later won a number of legal cases against the government over the changes that were made to the pensions scheme, leading to significant compensation for some members.

More at Striking Firefighters block traffic.


Welfare Advocacy not a Crime – DWP, Westminster

Welfare activists protested outside the Dept of Work & Pensions in Caxton Street as a part of the national day of action over the arrest of welfare rights activist Tony Cox. He had been arrested when he tried to accompany a vulnerable claimant to her job centre interview to argue for a fairer claimant agreement.

As well as several banners, one man was gagged in protest. By law claimants are allowed to have and adviser present with them at the interview, but when a claimant turned up with Cox, his interview was cancelled.

Cox and the claimant then left the job centre, but later in the day police arrived at his him and arrested him, charging him with threatening behaviour.

Welfare Advocacy not a Crime.


RMT protest Underground Job Cuts – Edgware Road Station (Bakerloo)

Around 20 RMT members handed out fliers at the busy Edgware Road Bakerloo Line station against the proposed 50% cut in station staffing and the closure of the ticket offices which they say will endanger the safety of both passengers and staff.

They got a very positive reception from many of the public going in and out of the station or walking past, although a PCSO came to harass and try to stop their picketing. Most of the public seemed to realise that staff do far more than sell tickets and offer service and protection to the travelling public.

Many promises were made to Underground staff and the public about how they would be protected when cuts were made, but most were later broken.

RMT protest Underground Job Cuts


Lambeth against £90m cuts – Lambeth Town Hall, Brixton

After taking some photographs of the protesting RMT staff I got on the Underground there, changing at Oxford Circus to take me to the end of the Victoria Line at Brixton.

There I walked down to Lambeth Town Hall on the corner of Acre Land to join around a hundred trade unionists, pensioners, library and other council staff, social housing tenants and other residents who were gathering for a lively rally outside Lambeth Town Hall.

A lively rally took place urging councillors who were arriving for the council meeting to reject library closures and other £90 millon cuts which were being passed there by the large Labour majority on the council. Labour then held 59 of the 63 council seats. Among the speakers at the rally was the only Green Party councillor, Scott Ainslie, who was to vote against the cuts. The Green Party gained four more seats in the 2018 council elections but lost three of these in 2022. Right-wing Labour councillors still have an overwheming majority and the council continues its policies which fail the community.

Lambeth’s finances were stretched by the development of a new Town Hall or Civic Centre the cost of which roughly doubled from the original contract of £55 million ot £104 million. Policies such as the closure of libraries and the demolition and sale of popular and well-built council estates like Cressingham Gardens had already produced a great deal of protest in the borough.

The £90 million cuts passed at the council meeting later that evening have had a disproportionate impact on children, old people and the disabled who always rely on local services more than the average person. Council employees at the rally opposed the cuts not only because they feared for their own jobs, but because they knew those that remain in post will not be able to offer the public the same quality of service that they do at present.

Lambeth against £90m cuts


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All photographs on this page are copyright © Peter Marshall.
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Firefighters and Nurses – 2015

Friday, December 2nd, 2022

Key Workers were protesting in London on Wednesday 2nd December 2015, but their protests were ignored by government and then Tory Mayor of London Boris Johnson. Since then we have seen that the warnings of the protesters were real and the consequences of Tory policies have led to disaster. It’s a failure of our system of government that allows dogmatism and class interests to pursue such irresponsible policies at both local and national level, and one hugely facilitated by a media largely controlled by a handful of billionaires.


Firefighters say cuts endanger London – City Hall, Wednesday 2nd December 2015

Firefighters and Nurses

Firefighters and supporters protested at City Hall against plans to get rid of 13 fire engines and slash 184 firefighters in the London Fire Brigade. These came on top of previous cuts and station closures which have already led to increases in the time taken for firefighters to arrive at fires which have lead to people who would otherwise have been rescued dying in fires.

Firefighters and Nurses
The People of Shoreditch Say… Bozo Don’t take or Fire Engine Away! – Bozo the Clown of County Hall’

Trade unionists and others came to support the firefighters and some spoke at the rally along with speakers from the FBU. It took only a little persuasion to get George Galloway to speak. Members of the London Assembly had put forward an alternative plan to make savings and avoid the loss of the fire engines but these were dismissed by London Mayor Boris Johnson.

Firefighters and Nurses
George Galloway came to show support

One of the consequences of the cuts to London’s fire services came sadly and disastrously with the loss of 72 lives at Grenfell Tower on 14 June 2017. We found then that London simply didn’t have a single fire engine capable of dealing with a fire in the upper floors of the building. Fortunately Surrey, although it has far fewer high rise buildings had kept one which could be called in to help, or the death toll would have been even higher.

Firefighters say cuts endanger London


Save NHS Student Bursaries – Dept of Health, Whitehall, Wednesday 2nd December 2015

George Osborne had decided to scrap NHS student bursaries from 2017. Nurses and other healthcare students have to spend around 50% or their time working in hospitals for the NHS during training and so are largely unable to take on part-time work as many other students do. They only payment they get for this work is through the bursaries.

It seems totally unfair to ask them to take out student loans and work for the NHS for nothing as well. And since many of the jobs they go into are not particularly well-paid, it makes little financial sense as many would probably never fully repay their loans.

Always plenty of money for our arms manufacturers

But what nurses said it would do was to lead to a reduction of students applying for healthcare courses, particularly the many single mothers and more matures students who are enabled to take the courses by the bursaries. And to take this action at a time when there was a critical shortage of medical staff was sheer lunacy.

Of course they were right. The situation in the NHS is even worse now partly due to this axing of bursaries. Of course there are other factors too – including a racist immigration policy which has been made much worse with Brexit. And the continually increasing privatisation taking place.

The NHS has so far suffered various areas of breakdown caused of exacerbated by various government policies – including some under New Labour who promoted disastrous PFI schemes that have brought some hospital trusts to financial ruin. Covid was another savage test and things look set to get far worse in the coming winter months. And given the years of below inflation pay offers its hardly suprising that nurses are now about to strike.

The problems with scrapping the student bursary were so intense that the government was forced to set up a new bursary scheme in 2020. But while the previous scheme had a maximum of £16,454 a year, with a minimum of £10,000, the new scheme was considerably less generous, at a standard £5000, with additions for shortage areas and childcare giving a maximum of £8000.

Save NHS Student Bursaries


Grenfell, Idlib, Sudan – 15 June 2019

Wednesday, June 15th, 2022

Grenfell, Idlib, Sudan – 15 June 2019 – Another day I photographed several protests in Central London.


Grenfell Solidarity March – Westminster

The previous evening I’d photographed the silent march from close to Grenfell Tower remembering the victims of the disaster on the second anniversary of the disastrous fire which killed 72 and left survivors traumatised, and came up to London the following day, Saturday 15 June, for a rather noisier solidarity march, starting and finishing at Downing St, organised by Justice4Grenfell.

My journey up to London had been much slower than usual as there were engineering works on the railway and no trains from my station, and I decided to take a bus the five miles or so to my nearest Underground station for a train to London. On the way the bus passed a recently closed fire station, a reminder of the cuts made by Boris Johnson to the fire services which had contributed to the severity of the Grenfell disaster – though this fire station had been closed by Surrey County Council.

Banners from several branches of the Fire Brigade Union were prominent on the march, which was also supported by other trade unionists and housing activists, including the Construction Safety Campaign, the Housing For All campaign, Defend Council Housing and the Global Womens Strike, as well as others from the Grenfell community.

Yvette Williams demands Truth and Justice For Grenfell

From a rally opposite Downing Street the campaigners marched to the Home Office in Marsham St, now also home to he Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, for more speeches. The Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea is one of the richest bouroughs in the country, but it is dominated by Tory councillors representing the wealthy areas of the borough who seem to have little regard for poorer residents.

They signed off through their housing organisation the penny-pinching use of unsuitable highly flammable cladding, failed to properly oversee its installation, made other changes that threatened the safety of the residents and arranged for inadequate fire safety inspections, and dismissed the warnings of residents who they labelled as trouble-makers.

RBKC’s reaction after the fire was also severely lacking, and often showed little understanding or concern for the survivors, and their record over rehousing them was abysmal – and remains so now.

Among the speakers outside the Ministry of Housing were Moyra Samuels of Justice4Grenfell and Eileen Short of Defend Council Housing. After the speeches the protesters marched back to Downing St where there was to be a further rally, but I left to go elsewhere.

Grenfell Solidarity March


‘We are the Love’ for Idlib – Parliament Square, London

The Black Eyed Peas song ‘Where’s the love?’ was the inspriation for a protest which was part of an international non partisan campaign to raise awareness about the massacre currently unfolding in the province of Idlib in Syria. It called for an end to the violence in Idlib, the opening up a the supply of humanitarian aid to the people of the city and for those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity to be brought to justice.

Campaigners stood in a line holding posters which spelt out the message ‘#we are the love’ but this was difficult to photograph, partly because of its length, but also because of the drummer and bagpiper marching in front of it. Bagpipes in my opinion are best heard from the opposite side of the glen and I didn’t stay long.

‘We are the Love’ for Idlib


Hands off Sudan march, Hyde Park Corner

I left Parliament Square to look for a protest march over the massacre of 124 peaceful protesters by Janjaweed militias (Rapid Support Forces) in Khartoum and other cities in Sudan.

They were marching from the United Arab Emirates Embassy in Belgrave Square, and going to protest at the Egyptian and Saudi embassies, as all three countries had been visited by Sudan’s ruling military council and they were thought to be opposing a democratic Sudan and the movement which had led to the removal of corrupt president al-Bashir in April 2019.

From the timings I had for the event I expected them to be at the Egyptian embassy in Mayfair, but when I rushed there from Parliament Square found only a small group of supporters waiting for the protest.

I didn’t know the exact route of the march, but walked back along what seemed to be the its most obvious path, and was very pleased when I got to Hyde Park Corner to see and hear them just emerging from Grosvenor Crescent around a hundred yards away.

They stopped on the pavement just before crossing the road there and there was a lot of loud chanting, mainly led by women at the front of the protests, before crossing the road towards Hyde Park. They stopped again there and there seemed to be some arguments between protests and there was much more loud shouting and chanting, none of which I could understand.

Fortunately many of the posters and placards were in English, and as well the many Sudanese there were also some supporters of English left groups marching with them.

Hands off Sudan march


Guantanamo, Firefighters, Advocacy, RMT & Lambeth Cuts

Friday, February 25th, 2022

Guantanamo, Firefighters, Advocacy, RMT & Lambeth Cuts. Wednesday 25th February 2015 was a busy day for protests in London, and I photographed five events.


Free Shaker Aamer at Parliament

The Free Shaker Aamer campaign protested for 4 hours at Parliament calling for the urgent release of London resident Shaker Aamer from Guantanamo, where he had been held for over 13 years and regularly tortured. Of course I didn’t stay with them that long – there aren’t really that many ways to photograph a fairly small group in orange jumpsuits – but it meant they were still there when I arrived over three hours after their protest began.

Usually their protests are at lunchtime, but because they had stayed longer I was able to photograph their weekly protest at around 3.30pm on my way to an event outside Downing St. They continued these protests while parliament was sitting until Shaker was released towards the end of 2015.


Striking Firefighters block traffic

Firefighters came out of their rally in Central Hall and blocked the road in front of Parliament. I don’t think the police tried to move their fellow public servants, who had a large black balloon with the message ‘FBU – WE RESCUE PEOPLE, NOT BANKS! STOP THE CUTS’ as well as several banners.

After around ten minutes they marched down to Downing St, blocking much of Whitehall. In front of the gates to Downing St there was a very noisy protest, and police did come and talk with In front of the gates to Downing St there was a very noisy protest, and police did come and talk with FBU leader Matt Wrack and promised to try to get someone to come out and talk with them.

They were still waiting when I left – and I think they would still be waiting now before anyone representing our Tory government came.


Welfare Advocacy not a Crime

A short walk away in Caxton Street people were protesting outside the Dept of Work & Pensions in a nationwide day of action over the arrest of welfare rights activist Tony Cox.

Although by law welfare claimants are allowed to have an adviser present with them at job centre interviews, when a claimant arrived together with Cox his interview was cancelled. And later that day police arrived at Cox’s home, arresting him and charging him with threatening behaviour.

When his case came to court in October the prosecution had to drop the main charges. A month after the first hearing Cox was found guilty of refusing to supply person details to the police and fined £200 and admonished on the charge of hindering the officers.


RMT protest Underground Job Cuts

Despite earlier promises, Transport for London were planning to go ahead with a 50% cut in station staffing, closing ticket offices such as the well-used one at the busy Edgware Road station on the Bakerloo Line.

Things threatened to get nasty with some angry exchanges when police tried to move RMT members handing out leaflets to the public, but the RMT members insisted on their right to do so on the pavement outside the station entrance.


Lambeth against £90m cuts

Another tube journey changing at Oxford Circus from the Bakerloo to the Victoria Line took me south of the river to Brixton where a short distance from the station a lively rally was taking place on the street corner outside Lambeth Town Hall.

Around a hundred trade unionists, pensioners, library and other council staff, social housing tenants and other residents were there to tell councillors arriving for a council meeting to reject library closures and other £90 millon cuts.

It was now around 6pm, and in late February the sun sets around 5.30, so it was getting rather dark. Although I had both flash and LED lighting, neither is much use for lighting larger groups of people, and even on the corner of two major roads the streetlighting a few yards back was pretty poor. Thankfully digital cameras are considerably better than film under such conditions and I was able to get good results at ISO 3200.


More on all these on My London Diary:

Lambeth against £90m cuts
RMT protest Underground Job Cuts
Welfare Advocacy not a Crime
Striking Firefighters block traffic
Free Shaker Aamer at Parliament


15th June 2019

Tuesday, June 15th, 2021

Grenfell protest at Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government

Saturday 15th July was one of those days when my local station has no trains. I don’t think it used to happen, or at least only very rarely, before we privatised the railways, but it seems to be happening on quite a few weekends every year now. At first when these weekends began there was complete chaos, with unmarked rail replacement buses where the only way to find out if they were going the right way for you was to ask the driver, who usually knew, though often didn’t know how to get there and had to send a call out to passengers asking if anyone knew where the station was.

Closed Fire Station in Ashford

One one memorable occasion a passenger directed a double-decker down a road that, although it was the route I might have walked, narrows halfway down to rather less than bus width. After a very tricky and lengthy reverse we got back to the main road and drove on, past the correct turning. I and other passengers jumped out of our seats to tell the driver. He drove on, looking desperately for somewhere to turn the bus in busy narrow streets, finally doing a 3 or 4 point turn where the main road widened a little almost a mile on. This time as we cam back we made sure he turned left at the correct point.

Grenfell – 72 Dead and still no arrests How Come?

After a few such incidents, things did get sorted out more, but still too often the rail replacement bus arrived a couple of minutes late and missed its supposed connection – apparently no one had the authority to hold it for the bus. A journey that usually took 35 minutes often ended up close to two hours (and I’d face similar chaos on the way home.) So unless there was something really important to photograph I often stayed home.

Yvette Williams demanding the Truth and Justice For Grenfell

My alternative was to take a bus to Heathrow or Hatton Cross where I could join the Underground, and this became more viable once I could simply swipe a credit card to pay for the ride. It was still a slow journey, but more reliable than the rail replacement lottery. And on Saturday 15 June I took the bus and made a few pictures on the way from the upper deck.

It was the day after the second anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire in which 72 people died, and Justice For Grenfell had organised a solidarity march, starting and finishing at Downing St. After some speeches at Downing St, we marched to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government offices in the Home Office building to protest there, with a few more speeches before leaving to march back to Downing St for a final rally.

The event was supported by housing and building safety campaigners including Defend Council Housing and by branches of the Fire Brigades Union from around the UK.

As I walked through Parliament Square on my way to take the tube to another protest, I stopped briefly to photograph two events there. One was ‘We are the Love’ for Idlib inspired by the Black Eyed Peas song Where’s the love? to raise awareness about the massacre currently unfolding in the province of Idlib in Syria. Just along from this line of people holding large cards each with a letter of their message, and a drummer and a piper, was a small and quieter protest about the wrongful conviction of Brendan Dassey and his uncle, Steven Avery for the murder of Teresa Halbach in Wisconsin in 2005. The long and convoluted case which reflects badly on both the local police and the US legal system was the subject of a lenghty TV series.

By now I thought I would be too late to join the Hands Off Sudan march at its start at the UAE Embassy and guessed they might have got as far as the Egyptian Embassy, but when I arrived found just a few there waiting for the march. So I began to walk back on what I thought might be their route. I heard them before I could see them as I walked across Hyde Park corner, and the large and noisy crowd emerged from Grosvenor Cresecent as I turned down Grosvenor Place.

They were protesting after 124 peaceful protesters were massacred by Janjaweed militias (Rapid Support Forces) in Khartoum. Protests had begun in December and appeared to be causing a peaceful transition to democracy, removing corrupt president al-Bashir, until the heads of the ruling military council visited Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt, all countries opposed to a democratic Sudan – and today’s march was going to each of their embassies.

The marchers seemed to be stopping every few yards around Hyde Park Corner and singing and dancing and shouting slogans. Half an hour after I met them they had only moved on a few hundred yards are were slowly making their way up Park Lane. I felt I had taken enough photographs and went back to Hyde Park Corner for the slow journey home via Hatton Cross.

Hands off Sudan march
‘We are the Love’ for Idlib
Grenfell Solidarity March
Staines, Heathrow, Bedfont


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