Fire call project soaks up millions

PUBLISHED: 12:20 09 January 2008 | UPDATED: 22:03 26 October 2009

A new regional 999 fire call centre will cost almost as much as the annual running costs of the entire UK fire service. The spiralling costs have pushed back the opening of a new regional fire control centre by three years. In 2005, the Government said

A new regional 999 fire call centre will cost almost as much as the annual running costs of the entire UK fire service.

The spiralling costs have pushed back the opening of a new regional fire control centre by three years.

In 2005, the Government said the Cambridge centre, which will respond to 999 calls from Hertfordshire residents, would be up and running by 2008.

But the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) says that the centre, one of nine due to open across the country, would not open until 2011.

Money is being blamed for the delay - the original estimated costs of £100m in 2005 are now 14 times higher at £1.4bn.

Hertfordshire's chief fire officer Roy Wilsher said the plans were a "significant financial investment" into the country's fire and rescue services.

He said: "Our priorities are our staff, keeping them informed and helping to plan their futures.

"We are also working to make sure residents continue to receive an excellent service."

All 46 fire service 999 command and control centres in England are to be replaced with the nine regional centres.

The Cambridge one will deal with calls from Hertfordshire and the other five counties that make up the East of England region.

FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said: "Long delays and soaring costs have made this a disaster for the fire service.

"The entire UK fire service only costs £1.7bn a year to run, so this is using up money on a scale the service has never seen before.

"Frontline fire stations and firefighters are being threatened with cuts while this project soaks up hundreds of millions of pounds.

"The money could be spent on frontline fire services but is instead being diverted into this money pit of a project."

l What do you think about the delays and costs? Email us your views at whtimes@archant.co.uk

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