January 5, 2011barriehol
In April 2010 I commented on a report published at that time by a Commons Select Committee on the appalling state of the FiReControl project – a wholly unnecessary, ill conceived and grandiose scheme to consolidate all 49 regional fire and rescue services into 9 “super” regional control centre’s all justified under the guise of efficiency savings. The FRS network was generally opposed and highly suspicious that the real motive was manpower and cost reduction not service improvement.
The 2010 report cited inadequate planning, poor management and massive budget overruns that left the project to quote “in a precarious position”. It concluded that overall the project that was intended to save the taxpayer £86million was projected to end in negative territory to the tune of £240 million. Despite the damning report the then administration vowed to press ahead regardless.
Well I can happily report that 7 years since the master plan was first announced the new blue Coalition Government has announced it is scrapping the scheme but sadly too late to prevent a reported loss of up to £1.3 Billion according to one MP involved.
Welcome though it is the cancellation of the project still came as something of a surprise within the fire protection professions. Clearly it was not just a case of cutting our losses (the taxpayers that is) to draw a halt to further project delays and increased costs. Any sane rational review of the intended project outcomes would have concluded that from the outset it was also unworkable and a step backwards in terms of public safety, an argument the Fire Brigades Union, which has been consistently opposed to the project, had argued from day one.
The current Fire Minister Bob Neil has apparently reached agreement with the main contractor, Cassidian, to call a halt to the troubled project, no doubt at a further cost. Efforts will be made to ensure the FRS benefits from any legacy assets that can be salvaged from the debacle as many have invested heavily in anticipation of the project going live, and Bob Neil has promised to consult with the FRS on developing any alternative plans for modernisation. He should be true to his word and include the FBU in the process.