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Wednesday, 22 October 2014

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Cumbria fire union’s dismay as technical glitches delay control centre opening

A fire union boss has branded a new regional control centre a “waste of money” following its latest setback.

Fire union Dave Burn photo
Dave Burn

The £482m control centre in Warrington, which will eventually handle calls from Cumbria as well as the rest of the north west, was due to open next Thursday.

But it has now emerged that the project, which has already been delayed by five years, has been held up further by technical hitches, and the opening won’t take place for another four to six weeks.

Fire chiefs insist it will soon be “business as usual” but Dave Burn, chairman of the Cumbria branch of the Fire Brigades’ Union (FBU), says he isn’t surprised by the latest delay and claims the scheme is not financially viable.

He said: “This project has been delayed from the offset with IT problems and spiralling costs.

“The fire service has been doing a lot of work trying to get this together and it [the latest delay] just goes to show it is the wrong thing to do.

“It’s not cost effective – it is costing the fire service a fortune and we have never supported it and will continue to voice our destain.”

The union previously raised fears that regional call handlers wouldn’t have the same knowledge as those in local centres.

Mr Burns added: “The amount of money that has been wasted [on the project] is shocking.

“We want to see every area have its own local control room.”

Emergency calls from Cumbria have been dealt with by Cheshire fire service’s former call centre since the closure of the Cockermouth facility in 2012. That centre had been due to be relocated to the new Warrington headquarters in 2009 as part of plans to replace all 46 local control rooms in England with nine regional ones.

Mr Burns said that all call handlers had to apply for positions in the regional centres after the closure of the local offices. He believes that the uncertainty surrounding the new Warrington base leaves staff in a “quandary”.

A Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service spokesman said: “The North West Control Room will provide Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service with an improved call-handling function that uses the latest proven technology, designed for and by fire and rescue services.

“To ensure the system is fully functioning before the new control room comes into service, the transition date has been put back by a few weeks to allow IT suppliers to carry out tests and bring it up to full operational capacity.

“Cumbria’s control room moved to Cheshire temporarily in 2012, so it will be business as usual in Cumbria when we switch to the North West Control Room.”

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