Firefighters being called out to false alarms in Sutton cost the taxpayer £720,000 last year.

According to new figures released by London Fire Brigade (LFB), firefighters in Sutton attend two false alarms every day.

Despite a 31 per cent reduction in the number of unnecessary call-outs in the last decade, fire engines were called to 850 false alarms last year in Sutton, costing an estimated £720,000.

In London a fire engine was called every 12 minutes to a false alarm. Over a third of all emergency calls are to false alarms, with 40,839 attended last year.

Of these over 27,000 call outs were to commercial or public buildings and mainly due to faulty or badly maintained automatic alarm systems.

The LFB has said these unnecessary calls impact on the Brigade’s ability to attend real incidents, deliver training and carry out vital community safety work.

A LFB spokesman said fire alarms act as a vital early warning system, helping keep people safe by alerting them to fires and giving them more time to escape, but the majority of false alarms were caused by faulty or badly maintained automatic fire alarm systems or things like burnt toast, steam or cigarette smoke.

Aaron Watson, London Fire Brigade’s Borough Commander for Sutton, said: "We can’t keep sending our crews out to non existent fires, particularly when a little extra care and attention from the owners or managers of buildings could solve this problem.

"This is about the LFB being able to do the job people expect it to - attend real emergencies. The management of these alarm systems must improve so that our crews are not sent to needless call outs."

The Brigade continues to work closely with organisations across the capital, such as hospitals, universities, hotels and airports, in a bid to reduce the number of false alarms it responds to.

In 2009, the Brigade introduced call filtering to help reduce the number of unwanted call outs. Between 6am and 9pm control officers ask the caller why the alarm is sounding. If the caller confirms that it is not because of a fire then no fire engines are sent.

Nationwide the cost of false alarms is estimated to be £1bn a year.