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Fire brigades attack control room plans

PUBLISHED: 06:21 28 December 2009 | UPDATED: 09:02 01 August 2010

Firefighters have again attacked plans for a regional control room.

Firefighters have again attacked plans for a regional control room.

Shaun Lowthorpe

Controversial plans for new regional control rooms have again been attacked as a waste of money amid union claims that the government will spend more money on civil servants and consultants than the entire project was meant to cost.

Controversial plans for new regional control rooms have again been attacked as a waste of money amid union claims that the government will spend more money on civil servants and consultants than the entire project was meant to cost.

The Fire Brigades Union said that while the original estimate for the FiReControl project, which involves replacing England's 46 local fire control rooms with nine regional centres, was £100m, costs have soared to £1.4bn.

The union said it had obtained new figures showing that by 2013 the Government will have spent £105m on civil servants and consultants involved in the plans.

In the East of England plans are well under way to shift the fire control rooms of six counties including Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire to one site on the outskirts of Cambridge - which is currently sitting empty.

Cambridgeshire will be the first to move in September 2011, followed by Suffolk two months later and Norfolk, which will relocated from its current base in Hethersett in May 2012.

In October David Worsley, the head of the new control room, said the service would be “as good, if not better” than what is currently in place.

But an FBU spokesman said the latest figures showed that the scheme was a waste of money.

“The Government is throwing money at a failing project it got badly wrong from the start. They've spent more money on civil servants and consultants than the entire project was meant to cost,” he said.

“There is an army of civil servants, consultants and hangers-on who have been cashing in and there is still nothing that works. It is a terrible waste of public money at a time of a major spending squeeze. This money should be going to frontline services, not Whitehall plans that nobody wants and don't work.”

The FBU said the Government had spent millions of pounds, mainly on buildings which have been standing largely empty and unused for two years, with no chance that any of the new centres will be operational until 2011 at the earliest.

The Government maintains that the new centres will improve communications and deliver a more “robust and responsive” emergency service.

A spokesman for communities and local government said: “We do not recognise the figures quoted.

“A complex technical project like FiReControl requires us to bring in people with the right expertise and specialist skills for an appropriate period of time. We keep consultant numbers under constant review and use civil servants wherever possible.”

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