Suffolk: Renewed anger over fire control centre move

MEMBERS of the Fire Brigades Union have launched a fresh broadside against Suffolk County Council proposals to merge the county’s emergency control room with Cambridgeshire’s headquarters in Huntingdon.

The union has accused the council of “jumping feet first into untried, untested and exceedingly dangerous waters”.

FBU executive member for East Anglia Keith Handscomb claimed the county should have re-thought its strategy once the government decided to abandon proposals to create regional control centres.

Mr Handscomb said: “The FBU was a lone voice of professional opposition from the very start and we have been proven right about the regional control centre project.

“It failed and has cost the taxpayer �1.3billion. We now urge Suffolk County Council to listen to our concerns and avoid making the same mistakes.

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“There are serious concerns over how such a move could maintain the high standards of 999 service currently delivered locally in Suffolk can be maintained from a distant part of another county.”

Suffolk’s deputy chief fire officer Mark Hardingham said the decision to move the fire control to Cambridgeshire remained an interim move because the final shape of fire control was not clear.

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He said: “We know the government has said the proposal to go to nine regional control centres has been withdrawn, but the Department of Communities and Local Government will be consulting on the future of fire controls in the New Year.

“We do not know what that will recommend and we have a situation where we have to leave our current control room in the second half of 2011.”

Colin Spence is the councillor responsible for public protection at the county.

He said: “The control centre staff are highly skilled and very dedicated and I know it has been very difficult for them with all the uncertainty that has existed since the previous government outlined the Regional Control Centre strategy in 2004.

“We have been preparing for this, and as part of that the [former fire headquarters] Colchester Road site [in Ipswich] is to be sold later this year.”

Mr Spence said that other functions had been moved or were due to be moved – the fire station is to be relocated to Ransomes industrial estate at the end of the summer or in the early autumn.

And he said local knowledge would be retained when the control centre switches to Cambridgeshire.

“There will be some controllers from Suffolk who move there, taking their local knowledge with them.”

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