Control Centre Still Expected To Close

20 December 2010, 17:26 | Updated: 20 December 2010, 17:31

Suffolk Fire Control which is based at Colchester Road in Ipswich is still expected to close and move to Camrbidge after plans were approved today.

However, a decision by the government means there will need to be a review of plans before a final decision is made at the beginning of next year.
The Government today announced it was scrapping a controversial scheme to replace 46 fire control centres in England with nine new sites, which an MP claimed has "wasted" £1.3 billion.

The surprise move to end the so-called FiReControl project follows a series of delays and increased costs since it was announced by the Labour government several years ago, which pledged that the new system would better protect the public.

Fire Minister Bob Neill said today he had reached agreement with the main contractor, Cassidian, to call a halt to the troubled project.

The Fire Brigades Union, which has been campaigning against the project, said today's decision was "long overdue''.

Brian Coleman, chairman of the Local Government Association's Fire Services Management Committee, said: "The proposals to introduce regional control centres have been beset by delays and spiralling costs of £423 million, frustrations our members have repeatedly expressed deep concerns about.

Many fire authorities have put a lot of money into the FiReControl project and we must now ensure they can make the most of that investment and don't suffer any additional financial burdens, especially considering the tough grant settlements announced this month."

Mr Neill said that over the next few weeks efforts will be made to identify any legacy assets from the project, including the control centre buildings.

The Government will cease funding the project as quickly as possible and will start to consult with fire and rescue services about developing alternative plans.

Mr Neill said: "We recognise that fire and rescue authorities will now wish to review their control arrangements in the light of today's decision. This Government does not intend to impose any solution for the future of control room services.

I know that the uncertainty around the future of this project has been frustrating and unsettling for the fire and rescue community and those closely concerned with their interests. My objective has been to deliver operational certainty for the fire and rescue service and financial certainty for the taxpayer.''

Peter Holland, president of the Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA), said the project had failed to deliver on time, cost and quality, and added: "CFOA will now be pressing the Communities and Local Government Department as a matter of urgency to secure appropriate funding to deliver alternative resilient fire control systems and facilities.''

However, despite this decision, Mark Harding, the Chief Fire Officer in Suffolk told Heart that he is confident plans to move Suffolk's Fire Control Centre to Cambridge should still go ahead but says the public won't be affected, "In terms of people picking up the phone and dialling 999 and wanting a fire appliance to respond, I don't think people will notice the difference at all. They'll still speak to a fully trained fire control operator and they'll still be able to pass on information about where they are and that information will be conveyed across to firefighters who will respond to the incident. In terms of firefighter safety as well, we don't consider that there will be an impact on firefighter safety by transferring the control."