http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/341465

Op-Ed: The London Helicopter Crash — A wake up call for austerity

Posted Jan 16, 2013 by Alexander Baron
The big news for the South East today was the crash of a helicopter at Vauxhall, South London. The emergency services were soon on the scene. But will that always be the case?
A helicopter crashes into a crane atop a building in London.
A helicopter crashes into a crane atop a building in London.
benstoate/Twitter
The crash which resulted in two deaths including that of the pilot was international news, and naturally dominated the local news on the BBC here. While this was of course a tragedy for pilot, Captain Pete Barnes, and for the person on the ground who was killed, the consensus is that it could have been a lot worse. Speaking to the BBC, a man who works on the site where the crane the chopper hit is based, said the driver was late for work this morning, which for him is unusual. Someone else said the traffic in the area was lighter than it usually is. Now consider something else. If this or a similar incident happens a year or two from now when the traffic is not so light, or when the conditions are less than optimum for a major disaster, how will the emergency services respond?
It has been reported that the fire service is to cut 520 jobs. That is in London alone, not nationally. This will save - we are told - £45 million over two years. At the same time, Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan are said to be preparing to shell out billions in bonuses to men and women who sit behind their screens all day buying low and selling high, that's when they get it right.
The cuts in the fire service are not the whole story though, there are cuts in the police, whose most vital work is often done during disasters small and great rather than chasing criminals. There are hospital cuts too including Lewisham Hospital, which is not that far from Vauxhall, and Ealing, another busy area. And that is only London. Talking of Lewisham, another day of protest is planned for January 26.
Fewer firefighters, fewer police and fewer hospital staff means fewer hands to deal with the next helicopter crash, terrorist incident or major fire. Saving £45 million over the course of two years may sound a lot, but firefighters are like umbrellas - you pay for them hoping you will never need them. If you leave home without an umbrella you may get wet; if you leave a major city without proper emergency cover, you may well pay the price in both hard cash, and blood.