A new report, Living on the Edge: Housing London’s Blue Light Emergency Services, launched by London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), found that high housing costs mean that a total of 54% 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.
LCCI has made six recommendations to the Mayor from changing planning guidelines to providing rental deposit loans to the Mayor becoming the landlord for emergency services housing.
Chief Executive of London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Colin Stanbridge said, “The findings, and in particular some of the comments from members of the emergency services, do give one cause for concern.
“The report has found that a majority of London’s main ‘blue light’ emergency services workers live outside London. As London moves towards becoming a ‘megacity’, the preparedness of ‘blue light’ emergency services is a matter that the new Mayor – and the new Assembly – will want to comprehensively examine.”
New Chair of the GLA London Resilience Forum, Fiona Twycross AM said, “I welcome the publication of Living on the Edge and the practical recommendations it makes. 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. This is an issue high on my agenda as newly appointed Chair of the London Resilience Forum. I look forward to working with relevant agencies to address this issue.”
In preparing the report LCCI heard how earnings in the NHS had gone up by three per cent or four per cent compared with travel costs of 35 per cent and housing costs of a third. In addition, subsidised travel for police officers has been discontinued for new recruits after 2014.
Representatives from the Blue Light services said that in some cases London workers were better off employed elsewhere. The Metropolitan Police Federation said that travel times together with long shifts contributed towards “huge stress levels”.
The report’s six recommendations are:
- The Mayor of London should ask the London Resilience Forum to consider how London’s preparedness may be impacted by a majority of ‘blue light’ emergency services workers living outside London.
- The Mayor of London should explore the feasibility of Rental Deposit Loans for full-time, permanent, operational staff in the London Fire Brigade and London Ambulance Service.
- The Mayor of London should consult local authorities on an alteration to the London Plan to identify the need for emergency services housing as an important planning issue.
- The Mayor of London should consider assuming an Owner – Landlord position for housing stock for London ‘blue light’ emergency services workers.
- A dedicated unit should be established within the Mayor’s new ‘Homes for Londoners’ agency to act as an intermediary to secure, commission or build homes specifically to rent to emergency services workers.
- Homes for Londoners should work with the London boroughs to bring local authority empty homes back into use for London emergency services workers to rent
The report was carried out following a previous investigation by LCCI two years ago, Getting Our House in Order, which found the capital had become increasingly unaffordable for many workers, resulting in multiple impacts on London businesses such as challenges around employee productivity and staff retention.