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EDITIONS
Thursday, 28 November, 2002, 11:50 GMT
Partition 'too low' for control room
A control room
Joint control centres are in use during the strike
The height of a glass partition in an emergency control room has been brought to the attention of a government minister.

Fire unions in Wiltshire said there had to be a glass panel in the room before they would agree to working in the joint control centre with other emergency services.

But the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) now says the 8 feet divide in the noisy room does not reach the ceiling and is not good enough.

Home office minister Bob Ainsworth is visting the centre in Devizes on Thursday.


Joint centres improve working conditions, provide better service to the public and allow better co-ordination between the emergency services

Government spokesperson

The FBU voted against the introduction of joint centres at its September conference.

Many have already been set up across the UK by the military during the firefighters' strike.

The centres have all three emergency services working together under one roof.

A fire union spokesperson from Wiltshire said the stress levels of working in the centre would be "incredibly high."

"We are all highly skilled in our own areas and should be allowed to carry out our own jobs."

'Better, safer'

Denver Walton, an FBU member from Devizes, said that lives could be put at risk.

"Other controllers may not have the necessary information to give callers, and it could put lives at risk," he said.

Mr Ainsworth said that troops and the police had been working very efficiently together.

"When we talk about modernisation, this is the kind of thing we mean - a better, safer, more joined-up service," he added.

Key recommendation

A government spokesperson said: "Joint centres improve working conditions, provide better service to the public and allow better co-ordination between the emergency services."

The 7.2m Devizes centre has been under discussion since last December and staff training is due to start in January, ahead of the centre becoming operational in April.

The joint centres are a key recommendation of Sir George Bain's modernisation proposals.

Prime Minister Tony Blair has ordered a review of the tricentre control rooms for presentation after the strike.


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