Fire Brigades Union

Fire Brigades Union

November 04, 2011 11:31 ET

Cumbria Fire Union Demands Action Over Axing Fire Control as it Launches Save Cumbria Fire Control Campaign

CUMBRIA, ENGLAND--(Marketwire - Nov. 4, 2011) - The Fire Brigades Union is demanding proper public consultation over plans to axe Cumbria's fire service command and control centre and move the work to Cheshire. It says the county council never costed alternative and, failed to apply for a £1.8 million grant to upgrade Cumbria's control.

The union says council explanations for the move lack credibility and say attacks on MP raising questions are wrong. It questions whether the Cabinet ever understood the full implications of the decision it was taking.

From June 2012 – 9 months time – the Cumbria control will be axed and the work moved to the Cheshire fire control room 150 miles away in Winsford, Cheshire. The County Council has not explained when and how this move was ever properly considered or subjected to proper public scrutiny.

The staff themselves described the news as a 'bolt from the blue'. The council's explanation ignores any reference to what is in place in the next two years.

The control room will be based in Winsford, Cheshire until at least 2014. Some of the significant concerns raised by MPs relate to what happens during that period and Merseyside fire service pulled out of the plans because of its own concerns.

It is then planned to move again to a regional control room in Warrington serving four north west fire services. This is an attempted regional revival of a national project which went disastrously wrong and cost taxpayers £500 million despite claims – but no evidence - of better technology, cost savings and greater resilience.

The County Council has only spoken about what it claims will happen after 2014 when it plans to move to the regional control. These claims are identical to the ones made for the now disgraced regional FireControl project heavily criticised by two Select Committees, the National Audit Office and the Public Accounts Committee.

FBU Brigade Secretary Ade Kevern said: "The closure of Cumbria's fire control effects the safety of everyone who lives, works in or visits Cumbria. Councillors have never properly consulted over their current plans which came as a bolt from the blue and are very different to anything set out before.

"These are new plans and they have never consulted on the problems, costs and risks involved. This was a quick decision taken behind partially closed doors and the council's description of what is happening lacks credibility.

"For councillors to say it is enough to have consulted over a disgraced and abandoned plan is absurd. They trot out the same old arguments taken apart by the National Audit Office and the Public Accounts Committee over the old regional control plans which were abandoned.

"We have seen the disaster waiting down the path of regional fire controls and wonder what our councillors are thinking. The one thing learned from that disaster is to listen to your local professionals when they warn of risks, the costs and empty promises.

"We need proper public scrutiny and consultation. Our councillors must think again."

The union launches its Save Cumbria Fire Control campaign on Monday 7 November at 3.30 pm, Swallow Hill Top Hotel (Swallow Hotel) London Road, Carlisle, Cumbria, CA1 2NS. Fire crews and control crews will meet with placards, banners and proceed to start leafleting in Carlisle.

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