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20 September 2011 | Angeline Albert
MPs have cast doubt over the government’s ability to deliver value for money from £84.8 million of further funding made available to achieve the objectives of the FiReControl project.
FiReControl was supposed to improve efficiency by replacing the control room functions of 46 fire and rescue services in England with nine regional control centres. The project was launched by the Department for Communities and Local Government's (DCLG) 2004, but cancelled in 2010. Eight of the control centres remain empty and continue to cost £4 million a month to maintain.
The project “ended in complete failure” said Margaret Hodge MP, chairwoman of the Committee of Public Accounts (PAC). A report published today into the scrapped project said it wasted almost £500 million.
New plans by the DCLG to hand further funding to local fire and rescue services to achieve the failed project’s efficiency and integration objectives has sparked concern from the PAC. It said it was “unclear how the expenditure of a further £84.8 million will deliver value for money”. In its report, MPs called on the DCLG to manage the funding by having clear approval criteria, appropriate milestones and transparent delivery arrangements.
The committee also recommended the government undertake a review of fire, ambulance and police services to consider how to make use of the control centres.
The PAC report said the project “progressed too fast without essential estimated costs and savings checks being completed”. It said no one in the DCLG had been held accountable and recommended the Cabinet Office be clear as to how government will address underperformance.
A spokesman for the DCLG said: “The department will respond in due course.”