Fire control room procurement slammed in radio broadcast

27 August 2010

28 August 2010 | Angeline Albert 

A total of £200 million has been spent on a project to replace 46 regional fire control rooms with nine new centres which is yet to get off the ground.

This includes a technology deal to run the centres – the supplier of which was contracted three years ago – and leases paid on buildings which are yet to be used.

In a programme aired on BBC Radio 4's Face the Facts programme this week, Clive Betts, chairman of the House of Commons communities select committee, said: “It would cost less to cancel it than to continue with it.”

European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS) was appointed three years ago to provide IT systems connecting the control rooms to the 14,000 fire stations and 3,400 fire engines.

However,as reported in SM in April, a report by the committee found fault at the way in which the Department of Communities and Local Government managed the purchase of the new system. French engineering group EADS won the FiReControl contract to build IT systems for the nine command hubs in 2007 but delays mean fire brigades may migrate to the new system during the critical period of the London 2012 Olympics.

John McDonald, chairman of the FBU (Fire Brigades Union) parliamentary group - a group of MPs who lobby on behalf of the union - told the BBC’s Radio 4: “It is very difficult for senior civil servants, ministers and secretaries of states to admit they’ve made a mistake and what usually happens is rather than admit they’ve made a mistake, they throw more money at it.”

He added: “This was spiralling out of control very early on and it needed ministerial and political intervention to put their foot down and try to resolve it.”

Fire minister Bob Neill said in a statement to Radio 4: “Better procurement is vital and we’re currently reviewing Firebuy [the national procurement body for the fire service]. The project must now be delivered by the main contractor EADS to time, to cost and to quantity.” 

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