The London Fire Brigade has been criticised for accepting a donation from the Freemasons with the condition that new trucks purchased with the money carry their symbol.
The society gave £2.5 million to the fire service to purchase two vehicles with high aerial ladders, which would be capable of reaching the top of a building as high as Grenfell Tower.
But the new vehicles will be emblazoned with the symbol of Freemasonry, the square and compass.
Paul Embery, of the Fire Brigades Union, told Channel 4 News that there were concerns over donations from “secret societies”.
“We don’t want to sound uncharitable but our concern is that this is really a slippery slope,” he said.
“The idea of private companies or secret societies effectively purchasing front line emergency service vehicles and having their insignia – free advertising effectively – we are really concerned that could lead to a greater inflow of private money into what really is a private service.”
The Freemasons’ symbol already appears on some other emergency service vehicles, including air ambulance helicopters and lifeboats.
Dr David Staples, CEO of United Grand Lodge of England, the society’s governing body, said the Freemasons were not secretive.
He said: “Freemasonry has a long and proud 300 year history of charitable giving and this £2.5 million appeal to purchase two vehicles for the London Fire Brigade is the latest step in London Masons’ objective to support the local community and help make London a safer place.
“London Masons recently made a £2million donation to help fund its much needed second London Air Ambulance and a further 22 Air Ambulance and rescue services across England and Wales have also recently received grants.
“Our universally recognised Square and Compasses can be seen on many of these emergency vehicles, all funded by the generosity of our members up and down the country. These include everything from the ambulances, first responder vehicles, helicopters and lifeboats to smaller buggies which carry patients with mobility difficulties around local hospitals.
“United Grand Lodge of England and its members have nothing to be ashamed of, and are disappointed that, in some peoples’ minds, out of date and inaccurate perceptions about Freemasonry continue to drive anti-masonic and discriminatory agendas. Service to the community has always been one of our key tenets.”
A spokesman for the London Fire Brigade said it was…