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A government announcement that control of Worcestershire’s fire and rescue services will definitely not move to a remote regional centre has been welcomed by Mid Worcestershire MP Peter Luff.

Peter had campaigned alongside local people and members of the fire brigade against expensive and inflexible arrangements agreed by the last government to move all control of our fire and rescue services to a central control room in the Black Country. The local Fire and Rescue Authority had explained to Peter that these new arrangements would be more expensive, less flexible, less responsive and less resilient than local ones.

Now, in a letter from the minister for fire services, Bob Neill, to MPs, it has been confirmed that Worcestershire will keep – and improve - its existing local arrangements.

In the letter, the minister says,

“In December, I announced in Parliament that we had terminated the contract with the main IT contractor … and decided to close the Labour Government’s FiReControl project for the regionalisation of fire control rooms. The reason was that [the contractor] could not meet the requirements of the project within an acceptable timeframe. It was not in the interest of taxpayers or indeed the fire and rescue service to provide additional public funding to bail out this inherited contract.

“Labour’s FiReControl project began in 2004, at the bequest of John Prescott, and had aimed to replace England's 46 standalone fire and rescue control rooms with a network of nine regional control centres. However, as a recent report by the National Audit Office confirms, FiReControl was a “comprehensive failure.”

The minister goes on to explain that, after extensive consultation,

“... a broad consensus emerged from the responses, especially around the Coalition Government's preferred approach of increased local collaboration and our commitment not to impose any central solution. Our strategy for the future will, therefore, be to build national resilience through local solutions.

“Following discussions with the fire and rescue community, we will be making available £81 million for fire and rescue authorities in England to help them improve the resilience, efficiency and technology in their control services. As a guideline, this could provide up to £1.8 million for each authority. Authorities will be invited to submit their plans and funding bids by 4 November 2011.”

Peter Luff commented,

“This is a huge victory for common sense that will give us more responsive, more effective and lower cost local fire and rescue services. I am delighted with this outcome.”


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