Regional control rooms for fire services

By Danielle NuttallTHE Government is pressing ahead with its plan for regional control rooms across the fire service - despite hundreds of East Anglian residents backing an EADT campaign to oppose the move.

By Danielle Nuttall

THE Government is pressing ahead with its plan for regional control rooms across the fire service - despite hundreds of East Anglian residents backing an EADT campaign to oppose the move.

A new survey, published yesterday, concluded regional control rooms - which could mean a service for the whole of the East of England area including Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, and Bedfordshire - would significantly enhance its performance.

It came as the Government announced details of the draft National Framework for the Fire and Rescue Service, part of a package of reforms in the White Paper, Our Fire and Rescue Service, which aims to modernise the service.


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But the announcement was condemned by the Suffolk Fire Brigades Union, which described it as a cost-cutting measure that would increase the risk to life.

Announcing the survey, fire and rescue service minister Nick Raynsford said: “Control rooms and control room operators already play a vital role in delivering the service and will in future be an essential part of our resilience agenda.

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“This regional approach is not about undermining local responsiveness or adding a layer of bureaucracy, it is about improving the effectiveness of the service.

“We find the conclusions of the study persuasive, but we recognise the important implications that the proposed new approach would have for the service, including for control room staff.

“We are keen to work with all our partners in the fire and rescue service to establish the new national network of linked regional control rooms which is now needed.”

But Paul Woolstenholmes, secretary of the Suffolk Fire Brigades Union, criticised the plan, saying: “There's no way in the world a reduced amount of staff taking calls can be better for the public.”

“There's more likely the chance of an appliance being sent to the wrong address. We can see the problems we will have.”

He added: “We kept saying through the pay campaign we are not here to make money, we are here as an insurance policy.

“This Government is about streamlining public services, but we don't provide a product, we provide a life-saving service.

“The bottom line is no matter how good your fire prevention, smoke alarms etc, you are not going to get away from the fact that fires occur and people need to be rescued.”

The East Anglian Daily Times launched the No to Regional Fire Service campaign after Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott unveiled a blueprint for the future of the nation's fire service, including a clear intention to create regional fire authorities.

One likely change would see control rooms, currently based in counties, being centralised to a single command base.

danielle.nuttall@eadt.co.uk

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