London fire brigade reviews Freemason ties after union criticism

FBU raised concerns at meeting discussing review that found service to be institutionally misogynist

London fire brigade is reviewing its relationship with the Freemasons after concerns were raised by the Fire Brigades Union, the Guardian has learned.

The concerns were raised at a recent London assembly meeting to discuss a damning independent review that found LFB to be institutionally racist and misogynist.

At the meeting, Gareth Beeton, the FBU’s London region chair, highlighted the brigade’s acceptance of a £2.5m donation from the Freemasons of London for specialist equipment, which became operational in November 2021. Masonic insignia appears on the sides of two fire engines that carry aerial ladders funded by the Freemasons’ donation.

Beeton said the union had raised concerns about the donation when it was made and was now doing so again after the review.

He has called for the masonic insignia to be removed because of the exclusion of women from much Masonic work and the fact that it is a secret society.

“The union’s women’s action committee is backing this,” he said. “The fire service is a public sector organisation and should not be funded by organisations like this one.”

LFB said officials were “considering our options for this relationship now”.

The review of LFB’s culture was ordered by the London fire commissioner, Andy Roe, in response to the death of Jaden Matthew Francois-Esprit, a firefighter who was neurodiverse and had been diagnosed with dyslexia, who took his own life aged 21 in August 2020.

Published in November 2022, it found the service to be “institutionally misogynist and racist” and said there were “dangerous levels of ingrained prejudice against women” and that people of colour were “frequently the target of racist abuse”.

At the time of the Freemasons’ donation, Roe said: “I am proud of this partnership with Freemasons of London and I am glad to say as a Londoner myself, and now representing LFB as commissioner, I am overwhelmed with your generosity for what these turntable ladders will do; not only for my officers in terms of their excellent operational capability, but also for the people of London.”

A fire brigade spokesperson said: “Accepting donations of funding for equipment from charitable organisations is not unusual for the emergency services and the London Freemasons have also supported other emergency services in the capital. However, we are aware that this issue was raised by a number of staff following the brigade’s recent independent culture review and we are therefore considering our options for this relationship now.”

A spokesperson for the United Grand Lodge of England said: “The United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) condemns without reservation any wrongdoing which has been highlighted in the recent independent culture review of London fire brigade. In regards to the London fire brigade, Freemasons from across London came together in 2019 to raise £2.5m for the purchase of two super hi-lift turntable vehicles, which have already made a significant impact in the work of the London fire brigade to protect citizens.”

He added that there were two women-only Grand Lodges, and that men and women worked closely together in a number of areas.


Diane Taylor

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Union is ‘sceptical’ senior leaders can change culture in London fire brigade
After a damning report exposes misogyny, racism and bullying in the organisation, union says it raised concerns ‘over many years’

Alexandra Topping

27, Nov, 2022 @2:05 PM

Article image
Report finds misogyny, racism and bullying at London fire brigade
Female firefighters have been groped, beaten and had their helmets filled with urine, review finds

Rajeev Syal Home affairs editor

25, Nov, 2022 @7:21 PM

Article image
London fire brigade put into special measures over misogyny and racism
Watchdog to monitor force closely after damning report revealed deep-seated behavioural problems

Rachel Hall

14, Dec, 2022 @12:45 PM

Article image
Author of London fire brigade report warns of racism and misogyny in other organisations
Nazir Afzal calls for national inquiry and says he has been contacted by NHS, BBC and police about issues they face

Diane Taylor and Geneva Abdul

26, Nov, 2022 @2:45 PM

Article image
London fire brigade declares major incident after heatwave surge in fires
Mayor says service is under immense pressure as it tackles 10 significant fires around capital

Emine Sinmaz

19, Jul, 2022 @3:52 PM

Article image
London fire chief Dany Cotton resigns after Grenfell criticism
Commissioner brings forward her retirement and will step down on New Year’s Eve

Robert Booth Social affairs correspondent

06, Dec, 2019 @3:55 PM

Article image
70 firefighters tackle grass fire on Rammey Marsh, north London
Ten fire engines dispatched to the scene of blaze covering 900m by 600m area of grassland in Enfield

Nadeem Badshah

13, Aug, 2022 @7:02 PM

Article image
Met interviews London fire brigade over Grenfell Tower disaster
LFB questioned under caution as corporate body in relation to health and safety offences

Robert Booth Social affairs correspondent

16, Sep, 2019 @11:36 AM

Article image
Diners flee as Christmas decorations catch fire in central London restaurant
Firefighters put out blaze at Latin American restaurant MNKY HSE in Mayfair after flames rapidly spread

Tom Ambrose

17, Dec, 2022 @4:56 PM

Article image
London fire brigade warns public not to tackle ebike fires
Warning after man sustains life-changing burns from trying to put out battery blaze with fire extinguisher

Robert Booth Social affairs correspondent

18, Sep, 2023 @11:01 PM