In October Lord Toby Harris published his wide-ranging independent report into what could be done to improve London’s resources and readiness to respond to a major terrorist incident. The Harris review commends London’s emergency services, but makes 127 recommendations for the Mayor, the government and other agencies to consider.
Calling for this review was one of the first major actions taken by Mayor Sadiq Khan after he took office, in the wake of a series of terrorist attacks including at the Bataclan in Paris in November 2015, and in Brussels in March.
The resilience of London in the face of a major incident, terrorism-related or otherwise, has been a focus of the LCCI for a number of years. In June, the Chamber published a report – Living on the Edge: Housing London’s Blue Light Emergency Services – which showed that more than half of the capital’s emergency service workers live outside London, raising concerns about the city’s preparedness to respond to major incidents. It found that high housing costs, in particular, meant that a total of 54 per cent of frontline ‘Blue light’ police, fire and paramedic staff now live outside London, and have to commute into the capital.
Blue light workers interviewed for the report said lengthy travel times and inevitable travel delays added to the stress and strain of shift working – and could impact on the emergency services’ response to incidents, particularly their ability to deploy and sustain large number of emergency responders in the field.
In the report LCCI made a series of recommendations to the Mayor to help tackle this problem, from changing planning guidelines and providing rental deposit loans, to the Mayor becoming the landlord for emergency services housing.
The LCCI report was welcomed by the Chair of the GLA London Resilience Forum, Fiona Twycross AM, who said “In the event of a major incident it is the dedicated staff from our blue light services who we will rely on, so we owe it to them to take action”.
Soon after publication, LCCI’s director of policy and public affairs Sean McKee was invited by Lord Harris to discuss the detail of the report, as it related to his inquiry, and two recommendations have subsequently been endorsed.
The Mayor of London asks the Chair of the London Resilience Forum to consider how London’s preparedness to deal with a major incident may be impacted by a majority of the three main ‘blue light’ emergency services workers living outside London.
The Mayor of London should consult the London boroughs and the Corporation of London on an alteration to the London Plan formally to identify the need for specialist emergency services worker housing as an important planning issue for London.
LCCI awaits the Mayor’s formal response to the Harris Review, and hopes that he will take forward these – and other recommendations – as a matter of urgency.
The Chamber recently welcomed the news that the London Fire Brigade has now implemented the report’s second recommendation, by providing an interest free tenancy deposit loan for all permanent London Fire Brigade staff. This is a really positive step, but more needs to be done to ensure that the capital’s housing crisis, already the cause of so many issues for the city, doesn’t also undermine the ability of our emergency workers to do their essential job.
Rob Griggs, Head of Public Affairs Team at LCCI