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Democrat July-August 2011 (Number 124)

Fire Control Centres based on EU regions scrapped

Empty and abandoned West Midlands fire control centre

The EU plan to divide England up into 9 regions may well have brought about a project to replace 46 fire control centres by 9 regional sites. The project launched by Labour in 2004 was subsequently axed with 8 of the 9 regional centres remaining empty. £469 million of taxpayers money has been wasted. The Department for Communities and Local Government is committed to paying at least £247 million in rent. This could rise to £431 million on the centres until the lease expires in 2035. The centres will never be used for their original purpose.

Empty and abandoned West Midlands fire control centre

FiReControl expected to use a national computer to handle calls, to be completed by October 2009 at a cost of £129 million. The European aerospace company EADS was assigned to develop the computer system. After delays the whole project was abandoned when it was estimated that £245 million had been spent and completion could have taken costs to £635 million, over 5 times the original estimate.

Margaret Hodge who chairs the Commons public accounts committee says: "We will want to know how the department got into this mess and why taxpayers will be saddled with a burden of at least £469 million."

The FBU opposed the setting up of these control centres from the beginning.

FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said: "The taxpayer has been taken to the cleaners. Millions of pounds were thrown away on management consultants, regional project directors, change co-ordinators, project assurance directors, PR and human resource directors.

"This project was run by Government with astonishing levels of incompetency. There was a wreckless use of taxpayers money at a time when frontline fire services were being cut.

"This project was badly thought out, poorly planned and managed incompetently. Throughout it all no one listened to what the professional firefighters and fire control staff were saying.

"The Fire Brigades Union was the lone voice highlighting soaring costs, incompetence and delays. The taxpayer is still paying £50,000 a day in rent for the 8 empty regional centres built to house the new control rooms."

See FBU website for further information.