Fire Brigades Union

Fire Brigades Union

July 08, 2008 10:05 ET

Fire Service IT Failure: The Government Promised 30% Savings on Running Costs, the New Command and Control System Would Pay for Itself in 5 Years and Be Operating by 2007

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM--(Marketwire - July 8, 2008) - The Fire Brigades Union has accused the Government of presiding over a fire service technology debacle over a project which is 3 years late and massively over budget. The Government has now announced that the 30% savings it promised the system would deliver will also not materialise.

The union said Government plans to close all 46 emergency fire controls in England and replace them with 9 regional centres is now in deep crisis. It said boasts and claims about the technology were being vastly overplayed in an attempt to shore up a failing project.

The costs of FireControl, as it is known, have climbed from an estimated Pounds Sterling 100 million at the start to over Pounds Sterling 1.4 billion as the project grew to include other items such as renting new purpose built premises. The Project will now result in the building rent costing twice as much as the technology.

Originally planned to be complete in 2007, it is not now scheduled to finish until late 2011 and even that date may not be hit. The Government unveiled some of the costs of each proposed regional control on 8 July, although not how the figures were reached.

But even these figures showed their earlier boasts of 30% savings will not now emerge. The full and detailed costs of the project for England which were promised in February, and then by the end of June, have still not materialised.

Neither the police nor ambulance services are being subjected to similar plans. Scotland abandoned similar plans on costs and other grounds earlier this year and Wales has made no announcement it is looking at similar plans.

FBU General Secretary Matt Wrack said: "These plans have little credibility outside of Whitehall and none of the boasts and promises of savings have been delivered. This IT Project is now very late, hugely over budget and has still not been subjected to operational testing.

"This project comes with incredibly high risks for firefighters and the public. There are no benefits which justify the risks being taken with firefighter and public safety.

"If the Government keeps pressing on, we anticipate that costs will continue to rise sharply. This includes all the costs for work the Government has ignored up to now but which fire authorities will still have to pay.

"It is a scandal that scarce resources, time and effort are being thrown at a project that has scant support within the fire service. Firefighters and officers are in desperate need of safety critical training, personnel and equipment at a time when firefighter deaths have reached a 30-year high.

"Despite their over-stated boasts, Government has a very poor track record of delivering this type of technology-driven project. Many of the benefits being claimed, such as mobile data units, are being delivered by other projects at additional costs or provided by current systems.

"To announce to firefighters that they'll all get SatNav in the appliances is ridiculous. It won't be relied on by fire crews going to an incident, and last year would have been pointless during the flooding as many of the main roads were under water.

"These plans are a disgraceful attack on the very people who played the critical role in organising and managing the fire service response to last year's floods and many other major incidents. To insert a regional level of command and control will effectively tear the heart out of local fire services and create confusion.

"The call handling capacity of the proposed regional controls is well below the number of calls the current brigade controls handle during busy periods. The public don't want to be left held in a queue when they need urgent help from the fire service, but that is what will happen.

"The police and ambulance deal with the same major incidents but are not being forced to accept similar plans. If our command and control systems need to be on a common national network, then why no similar plans for other 999 services?

"These plans date back to when John Prescott backed regional government in England. They should have been abandoned when regional Government flopped, and must be abandoned now."

What the Government actually announced: the 30% savings on running costs they promised - to be ploughed back into frontline services - are not going to happen. Instead, even more Government money is being spent on propping up a failing project.

All figures below in (Pounds Sterling 1000s)

Current control room costs(i) Forecast RCC Cost/saving Resilience
running costs payments

East England 7,439 7,373 66 0

East Midlands 5,390 6,262 -872 872

North East 4,803 5,405 -602 602

North West 8,828 8,426 403 0

South West 7,056 6,992 64 0

West Midlands 6,746 7,457 -710 710

Yorks & Humberside 5,952 7,124 -1,172 1,172

South East 10,232 8,767 1,466 0

London 8,837 10,898 -2,061 2,061

TOTAL 65,284 68,703 -3,419 5,417

Notes to table:
i. All figures in Financial Year 2006-07 prices
ii. Resilience payments subject to periodic review

Contact Information

  • Fire Brigades Union
    Duncan Milligan
    020 8541 1765