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999 fire safety fears

Date published: 05 April 2010

The Government must provide assurances lives will not be put at risk and public safety compromised under plans to move all 999 emergency fire calls from Greater Manchester to Warrington, a damning report claims.

The Commons Communities and Local Government committee said plans to merge the current 46 fire stations into nine regional control centres are inadequately planned, poorly executed and badly managed.

Under the FireControl project, first developed in 2004, Manchester’s base will close and all calls will go through a new super-centre in Warrington, covering the entire North-West.

The widely unpopular move had been due to take place in February, 2011, but “technical problems with developing the IT system” means that will not now happen until January, 2012.

Committee chairman Dr Phyllis Starkey said: “The original aims and expected benefits of this scheme were, in our view, sound.

“But the department has clearly not learned from its previous mistakes.

“FireControl is yet another catalogue of further poor judgement and mismanagement.”

MPs want Government to bring forward the end date for all nine centres by mid 2011 — ahead of the scheduled opening for the new North-West centre.

They say Government must provide assurances the safety and security of the Olympic Games, and training centres across the country, will not be compromised during the roll-out of the centres.

It states: “Escalating costs and severe delays look set to leave Fire and Rescue Authorities managing their migration to a new system at the time they should be preparing for the high-profile safety concerns presented by the Olympic Games in 2012.”

The MPs also demand Government draw up and consult on contingency plans for any further failures in the FireControl programme “to ensure ongoing safe and effective fire and rescue services cover across the whole country whether or not the regional control centres are eventually delivered.”

Given the costs already committed, the scheme should still go ahead but ministers must up their game.