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Peter Luff today called on the government to scrap the project to centralise fire service control. The MP for Mid Worcestershire said the new technology meant the task could now be done more cheaply, more locally and with greater security.
As part of a wider reform of the Fire and Rescue Service, the FiReControl project was announced at the end of 2003 with the aim of improving efficiency by closing the 46 fire service control centres and concentrating their functions into nine regional centres. The scheme has been widely criticised by fire chiefs and trade unions for being costly, over specified and unnecessary. It is now the subject of an inquiry by the Commons select committee on Communities and Local Government. The public evidence session is scheduled for early February.

Peter said,

“The Fire Control project was misconceived from the beginning. We were told that the centralisation of fire control into regional control centres would cut costs. But actually it was being pursued for political reasons – John Prescott wanted to create regional structures that would demand regional government.

“The idea of regional government is now dead – and regional fire control centres should die with it.

“We were told they would be more secure – but the recent swine flu epidemic shows the folly of putting all the control staff for the whole West Midlands in one building.

“It now appears that on top of an astronomical startup cost, the taxpayer will have to pay more for the running costs of this new system. The government says that the project will provide a better service for the same budget. Accumulated costs mean that this is not true and that the money would have been better spent on employing more adaptable technology to create a better network.”

“But perhaps the greatest worry is the technology. When the plan was drawn up in 2004, the technology was supposed to be cutting-edge. The project has taken so long to go live that this expensive equipment is now outdated. A series of delays means that the fire service must cope with the dual problems of maintaining an interim system whilst gearing up for a massive transfer of operations.

“Evidence given to the Commons committee by the Worcestershire Fire and Rescue Service shows that we can achieve the aims of the Fire Control project at less cost and more efficiently using off-the-shelf products.

“Many of us were warning about the folly of all this from the start. Why were these warnings not taken seriously by the government? Worcestershire people are set to lose control of their fire service to a remote building in Wolverhampton that is going to be more expensive, less effective and less secure – in short a total white elephant.”.


Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Authority’s evidence to the select committee can be viewed here:

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