Page last updated at 11:17 GMT, Thursday, 16 July 2009 12:17 UK

New fire control centre delayed

New fire control room, Taunton
The facility is one of nine planned regional control centres

The opening of a regional fire control centre covering the west country has been delayed until May 2011, Fire Minister Shahid Malik said.

The centre, which is opposed by the fire brigades union, will handle emergency calls from Gloucestershire in the north to Cornwall in the south.

It was supposed to open two years ago, but has been delayed again because of problems with the IT system.

The government said it was a complex project which would deliver benefits.

"In recent months it has become clear that technical problems with developing the IT system in a way which will meet all our and Fire and Rescue Service (FRS) requirements mean that further time is needed to complete the project," said the minister.

'Dead parrot'

Responding to the announcement the Fire Brigades Union said the project was "like Monty Python's Dead Parrot sketch with everyone knowing it was dead apart from government which insists it is still alive".

John Drake, Regional Secretary of the FBU said: "It's going from the sublime to the ridiculous.

"The gut reaction is at a time when fire authorities are facing severe financial constraints and cutbacks in public spending it's absolutely immoral the government is throwing huge amounts of tax payers money that' s going nowhere.

"The money would be better used on frontline services throughout the south west."

Regionally the union said the additional 10-month delay will cost a further £1,548,930.

In a statement it said: "The South West Regional Control Centre has cost a total of £2,066,107 in rent and other building costs from the date it was completed until February 2009.

"The government estimates that on-going monthly costs are £154,893 from February 2009 until the date the first fire brigade moves into the building in July 2010.

"Based on those costs, the price from February 2009 to July 2010 will be £2,478,288, making a grand total of £4,544,395 in rents and other costs from completing the building to becoming operational under the old timetable.

The control room at Blackbrook Business Park, Taunton, will cover Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, the greater Bristol area, Somerset, Dorset, Devon and Cornwall.

The facility is one of the government's nine planned regional control centres for England replacing the current 46 control centres.

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