Page last updated at 19:04 GMT, Thursday, 8 January 2009

Call for inquiry into fire centre

Regional fire control Taunton
The control room is expected to be operational by July 2010

Fire chiefs have called for a public inquiry into the delayed opening of a purpose-built regional fire control centre in Somerset.

Terry Walker, chairman of Avon Fire Authority, said: "It needs a public inquiry to look at what is happening."

It was due to be ready by 2007 but is now expected to be open in July 2010.

The Taunton-based control room will cover Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Avon, Somerset, Dorset, Devon and Cornwall.

'Mismanagement'

Councillor Terry Walker said: "It's much too large and we cannot understand how it's been built to the specifications it has.

"I think it's a gross mismanagement of the whole situation...when we in the British fire service are being urged to cut back and our grant settlement next year... is almost unmanageable... that the government can waste all this money at a time when we are supposed to show restraint."

The conservative MP for the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire, Mark Harper, said if the project "'is not a done deal by the next election" they would, if elected, cancel the whole project.

He continued: "This is a project which is 400m over its 1bn budget.

"It's running months and months behind schedule and it's costing 5,000 a day just to keep this building empty.

"That's a colossal waste of money at a time when the public are having to tighten their belts - and they expect the government to be doing the same."

In response to Mr Harper's comments about the costs, the South West fire control regional project director, Clive Kemp, said:

"He's not too far out on his figures but the point is you have to build the building to be able to put the technology in.

We are intent on delivering the July 2010 date if we possibly can.
Clive Kemp - South West Fire Control Regional Project Director

"The building has to come first and the building isn't sitting empty - we've got a substantial number of staff who are working on the project and preparing for the transition of the fire and rescue services.

"It's a bit of a fallacy to say that this is simply an expensive empty building just sitting here.

"We are intent on delivering the July 2010 date if we possibly can."

In December 2008, 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."



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