Suffolk and Essex: Multi-million pound fire control project is scrapped

A multi-million pound project to replace 46 fire control centres in England with nine new sites is to be scrapped, the Government has said.

The surprise move to “terminate” the so-called FiReControl project follows a series of delays and increased costs since it was announced by the Labour government several years ago.

Suffolk’s fire control centre in Colchester Road, Ipswich, was to be closed, with a new regional command centre in Waterbeach, Cambridgeshire, set to be established.

But fire Minister Bob Neill said today he had reached agreement with the main contractor, Cassidian, to call a halt to the troubled project.

In a written ministerial statement to Parliament, the minister said: “The progress of the project has caused serious concern, and so in June this year I made it clear to the main FiReControl contractor, Cassidian (formerly EADS Defence & Security), that the main IT system must now be delivered to time, cost and quality.

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“At this point, we activated a key milestone in their contract requiring the main IT system to be completed in three control centres by mid-2011.

“We told Cassidian that no additional taxpayers’ money could be invested in this project, nor would delivery of a system of reduced quality or functionality be acceptable.

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“Following extensive discussion with Cassidian, we have jointly concluded, with regret, that the requirements of the project cannot be delivered to an acceptable timeframe. Therefore the best outcome for the taxpayer and the fire and rescue community is for the contract to be terminated with immediate effect.

“Cassidian and the Department for Communities and Local Government have reached an acceptable settlement over this, although the details will remain commercially confidential.’’

The Government will cease funding the project as quickly as possible and will start to consult with fire and rescue services about developing alternative plans.

The Fire Brigades Union, which has been campaigning against the project since it was first announced, welcomed today’s decision as “long overdue’’.

- Check this site for more throughout the afternoon and buy tomorrow’s paper for the full story

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