Page last updated at 08:27 GMT, Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Ready fire control centres unused

Fire control room
Nine fire control centres will replace the current 46 centres

The government is spending 750,000 a month on buildings for new fire control centres which are unused, the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has said.

The union said that figure was set to rise to more than 1m in the New Year.

The buildings - spread across England - are part of plans to cut the number of control centres from 46 to nine.

The unused centres are in Durham, Wakefield, Warrington, Leicestershire, Wolverhampton, Cambridge, London, Hampshire and Somerset, said the FBU.

The unused buildings
Belmont Business Park, Durham
Paragon Business Village, Wakefield
Lingley Mere Business Park, Great Sankey, Warrington
Willow Farm Business Park, Castle Donington, Leicestershire
Wolverhampton Business Park, Wolverhampton
Cambridge Research Park; Merton Industrial Estate, London
South East Fareham, Hampshire
Blackbrook Business Park, Taunton, Somerset

A government spokesman said the centres were not standing idle but were providing training facilities for staff.

The union said the centres were supposed to be operational by 2007, but were now unlikely to be used before 2010 at the earliest.

Some of the centres are ready but they are not being used, apart from the occasional meeting, the FBU said.

It blames computer problems for repeatedly delaying the conversion project.

Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: "Local authorities are getting just 15m for the massive task of ensuring that arrangements are in place to assess and manage local flood risk.

"Yet the government is prepared to spend that sum every two years on empty buildings. If this happened in business, someone would be held accountable."

Olympic fears

The FBU also warned that the regional control centres might not be ready and fully operational for the 2012 London Olympics.

It also said the whole nationwide system would need to be up and running for the centres to work properly.

Mr Wrack said: "To be effective, the regional control centres need to be up and running 12 months before the Olympics to iron out any problems."

A Communities and Local Government spokesman said: "New regional control centre buildings are not standing idle.

"They are being fitted out with IT and other equipment, being used for the developing and testing of systems, and providing familiarisation and training facilities for fire service staff and elected members.

"The national network will be operational from spring 2012."

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