[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Friday, 7 January, 2005, 10:52 GMT
Fire proposals attacked by unions
Fire engine and equipment
Jobs will be slashed under the new proposals, the FBU warns
Confidential government plans which aim to replace national fire control centres have been criticised by union bosses.

The Fire Brigades Union has said that proposals for new regional centres will lead to job cuts and put lives in danger.

But the government has stressed that the project will replace outdated technology and prove more efficient.

The proposals are part of a leaked government report.

'Badly damaged'

FBU General secretary Andy Gilchrist said: "Our current ability to respond very quickly to fires, traffic accidents, flooding, environmental, chemical, nuclear and radiological incidents will be badly damaged.

If the government presses ahead with this folly they will have taken leave of their senses
Andy Gilchrist
"If such a key part of the fire service collapses into the total failure they say may very well happen, then lives will be lost.

"If the government presses ahead with this folly they will have taken leave of their senses."

According to the FBU, the project will see all 46 fire control centres in England replaced by nine regional centres.

The union said the number of control room staff across England could be slashed from 1,500 to 600, and called this "dangerous folly".

The leaked report estimates the move could lead to savings of 42.3m over 10 years, the FBU said, equivalent to 90,000 a year for each fire authority.

But the report also says there could be a loss of 107m, costing each authority 200,000 or more a year, the union said.

The FBU also warned that fire authorities would have to contribute to upfront costs for the project of more than 300m.

It said that if authorities bore these costs they would "almost certainly" be forced to make frontline service cuts.

The union also said local emergency calls could be transferred to regions in different parts of the country during busy periods.

'Modernisation'

But the government has insisted that extracts from the leaked report have been taken out of context and the plans will lead to the replacement of outdated technology.

Fire service minister Nick Raynsford said: "Existing control rooms do a good job, but they are not designed to deal, in a co-ordinated fashion, with major regional or national incidents.

"They operate with a wide range of procedures, technologies and systems - many of which have suffered from an historic lack of investment."

Mr Raynsford also said that the average cost of responding to an incident would be cut from 76 to 52, under the new proposals.


SEE ALSO:
Fire control room closure fought
29 Nov 04 |  England
Fire staff in 999 centre protest
17 Nov 04 |  Somerset


RELATED INTERNET LINKS:
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific