Suffolk: Worried MP calls for fire merger rethink

SUFFOLK: Conservative MP Dr Dan Poulter today called for the county to rethink proposals to merge the fire control with Cambridgeshire.

After meeting staff at the existing control room at Colchester Road in Ipswich, Dr Poulter said he was very worried that the service could suffer if it was moved out of the county.

He said: “There are systems operated by Suffolk to alert firefighters if there are special factors when dealing with a particular incident. If the merger with Cambridgeshire goes ahead, that could be lost. I understand from the Fire Brigades Union that other authorities are investing in their control centres – I shall be writing to the county council to find out why that is not happening here.”

The county operates a system called FACT (Firefighters And Carers Together) where properties which are occupied by people with disabilities are registered so firefighters know the situation before they turn up.

Dr Poulter, MP for North Ipswich and Central Suffolk, said: “That is a very good system – but there is no indication of whether that will continue if the control room is moved out of the county.”

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He was also concerned by the lack of local knowledge.

He said: “This week we have seen just how important it is for people to know the local area. I am worried that controllers in Cambridge might not know some of the places here with strange pronunciations like Pettaugh, Debach, and Hollesley.”

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The merger with Cambridge is being seen at this stage as an interim measure – fire controls across the East of England are due to come together in a regional control centre, possibly in 2012 or 2013.

Assistant fire chief Mark Sanderson said: “The FACT system is very valuable to us and we are looking to see how it can be incorporated into any new arrangements that are put in place. We are determined to retain this service.”

Mr Sanderson said the issue of local knowledge was being addressed – new technology would allow the fire control to pinpoint where most calls were coming from and there should be Suffolk controllers on duty with each shift.

n Are you worried about the changes to fire control? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@

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