Fire Brigades Union

Fire Brigades Union

October 20, 2009 10:54 ET

Fire Crews to Tell MPs-Ditch Plans to Close All Emergency Fire Controls, Scrap Plans to Regionalise

LONDON, ENGLAND--(Marketwire - Oct. 20, 2009) - Fire crews will tell MPs they have little confidence in the Government's plans to close emergency fire control rooms and move to a regional network. Delays are costing the taxpayer £40,000 a day in rent and other costs for the regional control buildings which will not be operational for years.

Over 1,000 firefighters, officers and control staff from across the UK are expected to lobby MPs on Wednesday 21st October. A press conference will take place at 10.30am at Central Hall, Storey's Gate, Westminster.

Known as FireControl the plans will result in the closure of all 46 fire brigade emergency control rooms in England which take 999 calls, mobilise fire engines and are central to the command and control of incidents.

There is currently one for each fire brigade delivering the specific needs of that brigade, tailored to their locally agreed safety plans.

Under FireControl, brigade emergency control rooms will be replaced by ONE regional control in each of the 9 English regions. Similar plans were abandoned in Wales and Scotland.

Beset by complex technical problems, delays and poor project management, there is now little confidence within the fire service that the Government can deliver this project.

A recent survey conducted by YouGov for the FBU found:

92 per cent of FBU members thought that moving to regional control centres would worsen response to incidents;

86 per cent thought this move would worsen safety for firefighters.

95 per cent thought that moving to regional controls was not necessary, and

93 per cent said that the Government should not proceed with the project.

Confidence in the Government with regards to Fire Control was low. When asked their level of confidence in 'the Government's ability to create a national network of regional fire controls which work well', only 2 per cent recorded a high level of confidence while 91 per cent recorded low confidence.

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1847 current FBU members who are currently working in the Fire and Rescue Service. Fieldwork was undertaken between 17th - 28th Sept 2009. The survey was carried out online. The figures have not been weighted.

Matt Wrack, FBU General Secretary said: "These plans are years late, massively over-budget and unnecessary. It is dreadful that the taxpayer is paying out £40,000 a day for a network of largely empty buildings that will not be operational for years.

"There is little confidence the Government can deliver anything that resembles anything as good as we currently have in most of our existing fire controls. These plans must be scrapped and we must move quickly to upgrade our current controls with the technology the fire service wants.

"A key part of our lobby of Parliament is to tell MPs we need to scrap these plans and move on. These plans will be killed off at some time, the sooner the better.

FireControl:

WAS meant to be completed between 2006 and 2007 IN FACT under the current provisional timetable they will not be completed until the end of 2012, although even that date may slip;

WAS originally estimated as costing £100 million IN FACT the total project cost is at least £1.4 billion and rising;

WAS claimed it would make so much in savings it would pay for itself in 5 years IN FACT there is no chance of it ever making any savings;

WAS meant to provide hi-tech call taking, mobilisation and command and control centres IN FACT Government has so far delivered only call taking and mobilisation, lacking the full scale command and control systems provided by existing control rooms.

Government claims it will provide a much better system are highly dubious. Current brigade control systems are tried and tested (unlike the FireControl system) and work very well.

The system is severely lacking in call-handling capacity because so few staff will be on duty. There is a significant risk the system will simply collapse because of a lack of people to take calls, mobilise appliances and carry out a range of other duties critical to the handling of all 999 incidents, large and small.

Delays will make it impossible for a fully networked national system to be tried, tested and in place for the 2012 Olympic Games. The current cost of keeping the largely empty RCC buildings is around £40,000 a day, approximately £5,000 a day for each centre.

Beset by complex technical problems, delays and poor project management, there is now little confidence within the fire service that the Government can deliver this project.

The Local Government Association has also run out of patience with FireControl saying it wants to end the "uncertainty" about a Project which has "been beset by delays and spiraling costs. It now opposes the Project and is now looking at "other possible alternatives".

Cllr Brian Coleman, Chair of the LGA Fire Services Management Committee, said in a statement on 18 September 2009: "This project is fast becoming a white elephant. Spiraling costs and continued delays mean that fire authorities are in the dark about how emergency calls will be handled in the years to come. It is time to end this uncertainty and abandon this expensive and unnecessary scheme.

"Upgrading existing control rooms would be better value for the taxpayer while delivering the communications improvements that will benefit fire crews. Spending almost £400 million on regional centres is no longer feasible in the current economic climate."

In our view – and we know it is very widely shared within the fire service – this project needs to be abandoned. It isn't supported by the fire service, it isn't working. It isn't needed.

We believe that the only realistic option is to seek the communications and resilience benefits the Government says it wants by other means. It will mean utilising the existing control rooms, upgrading systems and hardware as necessary and delivering the benefits far quicker, with greater certainty and confidence.

Early Day Motion 1800 sets out concerns which are very widely shared within the fire service.

EDM 1800 - FIRE CONTROL PROJECT

That this House notes the recently expressed concerns of the Fire Brigades Union that the FireControl Project should have been completed by the end of 2007, that Government claimed it would make considerable savings, paying for itself within 5 years and improve on the current system; further notes the project is now considerably over budget and will make no savings, continues to face considerable technical challenges and is now facing further delays which means the full national network may not be in place and rigorously tested in time for the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics; further notes the concerns of the Chief Fire Officers Association highlighting the lack of detail in the project requirements will jeopardise the project meeting the recently revised timescales and that further delays will threaten the operational continuity of existing control rooms, including the lack of capacity to meet the transitional requirements within the declared project timescales; and therefore calls for the project to be stopped and for existing control rooms to be swiftly upgraded as necessary to ensure the communications benefits sought by Government are delivered by local fire brigade control rooms as they will be in Scotland and are in Wales without the need for regionalisation.

Contact Information

  • Media contacts:
    Duncan Milligan
    07736 818100
    or
    FBU Head Office
    020 8541 1765