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Government cuts are putting lives at risk

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11 January 2013
cuts are putting lives at risk When I was elected as the Member of Parliament for Lewisham East two years ago, I knew that things were going to be tough under a Tory-Lib Dem Government.

I suspected that decisions would be taken which would favour those at the top, whilst penalising those not so fortunate.

I feared that places like Lewisham, Lambeth and Southwark would end up paying an unfair price as part of the Government’s attempts to deal with the deficit.

What I hadn’t anticipated was just how dangerous this Government would be.

In the last few months, this Government has launched an all-out attack on London’s emergency services.

Whether it’s their seeming determination to press ahead with the closure of Lewisham’s A&E, Boris Johnson’s plans to close 17 fire stations in London (including Downham, New Cross, Peckham, Southwark and Clapham) or the loss of 1700 police officers from London’s streets since 2010, it is clear that the lives and livelihoods of people in South London are being put at risk.

I feared the worst from this Government, but what I did not expect was a cavalier attitude to public safety. The cuts to our emergency services are unprecedented and unsustainable.

In a city of 7 million people, things will go wrong. Accidents will happen. The riots in 2011 showed just how quickly things can get out of hand. And, as much as we might not like to think about it, London is a terrorist target. We must have the capacity to respond.

The ability of the police and fire service to react quickly and effectively is imperative.

In the early stages, a fire doubles in size every minute.

When you phone the police because you’ve just witnessed a mugging, you want to know that they will come – not in a few hours time, but straight away.

There has to be capacity within our hospitals to deal with emergencies. People shouldn’t be kept waiting outside in ambulances. And they shouldn’t have to negotiate traffic jams on the South Circular to get to an A&E in the first place.

But this Government seems determined to take us back in time. They want to close the A&E in Lewisham. They want to close fire stations and they want to replace police stations with some sort of drop-in kiosk at the local supermarket.

Lewisham alone has lost 64 police officers and 48 PCSOs in the last two years. We have been told that Sydenham Police Station faces closure and that police stations in Catford and Deptford, two areas not without their problems, have been earmarked for reduced opening hours.

This is nothing short of reckless and it has to stop. Our emergency services are vital in a city like London. They are a matter of life and death and the Government would do well to realise it.

This article was originally written for the South London Press (published on 11th Jan 2013)


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