Page last updated at 00:26 GMT, Thursday, 1 April 2010 01:26 UK

Fire control room plans condemned

Two firefighters
The FBU said politicians "have not bothered to ask those who know"

A government project to replace 46 fire control rooms in England with nine new regional centres has been "poorly executed and badly managed", MPs say.

The communities and local government select committee said the project had put the future of an efficient fire service system at "substantial risk".

But MPs said so much money had been spent already that it should continue and would eventually reap benefits.

The Fire Brigades Union said that would be "throwing good money after bad".

Committee chairman Dr Phyllis Starkey said: "The original aims and expected benefits of this scheme were, in our view, sound. [But] FireControl is yet another catalogue of further poor judgement and mismanagement."

'Adversarial relationship'

After studying the project, the committee came to a series of highly-critical conclusions.

The committee found:

  • Original agreement for the computer work was ill-suited to the project
  • Relationships with major stakeholders and contractors were mishandled
  • Many fire authorities were left with "profound reservations" about whether the system would be safer and more efficient
  • An "adversarial" relationship between the government and the main IT contractor for the project

The FBU called for the project to be dropped.

FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said: "The committee sets out six conditions for the continuance of the project, and in our view these conditions cannot be met, so the project must be abandoned.

We accept that there have been problems in delivering the project. However... I believe the project is in a better position than ever before
Fire Minister Shahid Malik

"We recognise that this will mean that public money has been wasted, but to continue with the project means throwing good money after bad.

"Firefighters, who are surely the key stakeholders, have not been consulted, and when they have offered their opinion, it has routinely been ignored.

"Politicians with no knowledge or experience have taken technical decisions which they were not competent to take, and have not bothered to ask those who know."

'Renewed vigour'

However, Fire Minister Shahid Malik backed the committee's view that the project should go ahead.

"The government agrees with the select committee that the FiReControl project should continue with renewed vigour," he said.

"This is a part of the government's unprecedented and successful investment in the fire and rescue service that means that firefighters are better equipped than ever before and able to respond effectively to incidents whether caused by nature, industrial accident or terrorist activity.

"We accept that there have been problems in delivering the project. However, through the changes we have already made - many reflected in the committee's recommendations - I believe the project is in a better position than ever before."

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