27 November 2010
Emergency fire calls in Suffolk could soon be answered outside the county under plans to close the county’s emergency fire control centre, putting public safety at risk, the Fire Brigades Union is warning.
Staff working in Suffolk Fire Control in Ipswich learned yesterday (Friday Nov 26) that their jobs could go under the plans. Closing the Ipswich control centre and transferring 999 fire calls to Cambridgeshire is the “preferred option” of senior Suffolk Fire and Rescue management, the union has learned.
The proposal has not been endorsed by the full Suffolk Fire Authority. But a decision could be made behind closed doors at a “cabinet” meeting on December 7.
Adrian Clarke, FBU Regional Secretary for East Anglia, is urging the public to join the union in demanding consultation over the closure threat. “The union should be consulted on this reckless move and so should the public. Local people deserve to have their views heard. We the public will join us in defending this trusted local service. Fire control is the front line of an efficient, locally accountable frontline service. When lives are at stake, every minute counts. There can be no substitute for local knowledge.”
The FBU will be collecting signatures today (Saturday Nov 27) at a march and rally against public spending cuts in Ipswich, organised by the Suffolk Coalition for Public Services.
The threat to transfer Suffolk 999 calls outside Suffolk comes in the wake of the Government’s failed FiReControl Project which was to see the replacement of all 46 Fire Brigade Emergency Control Centres with just 9 Regional Control Centres. This failed IT project is 7 years late and millions of pounds over budget. There is now real doubt over whether the project will be delivered at all.
The Regional Control Centre for East Anglia is a building in Cambridgeshire which is currently empty and costing the taxpayer £1.7 million per year in rent! £143k per month.*
There has been no public consultation over the proposals and Assistant Chief Fire Officer Mark Sanderson has not consulted with staff via their representative body, the Fire Brigades Union.
Staff found out by chance, when local FBU officials finally managed to get hold of Suffolk Officer, Mark Hardingham and he told them that the preferred option is to close Suffolk Fire Control and for calls to go to Cambridge.
The Fire Brigades Union say there has been no Risk Assessment done on the implications of such a move, no business case on the cost implications, and no chance for local residents or staff to make their opinions known.
The union fears the closure could put lives at risk and urges locals to contact their councillors, fire authority members and MPs to put a stop to this reckless scheme. The failed amalgamation of 46 Controls into 9 should be a lesson to Fire Services to invest in current control systems rather than resorting to costly outsourcing across borders, the union argues. This would both preserve local accountability and save money.
FBU Executive Council Member, Sharon Riley, who represents Control Staff across the UK said: “Suffolk Control staff are the first intervention in any emergency situation and it is their skill, experience and local knowledge that leads to the correct and efficient mobilisation of resources to the fire scene.
Fire- fighters rely on their skill and professionalism to direct them to the incident, members of the public rely on them for reassurance and survival guidance, and to treat this group of highly trained employees in this way with such contempt is disgraceful. We urge Suffolk Fire Authority to think again and enter into meaningful consultation with the Fire Brigades Union.”
*Reply to Question asked in the House of Commons 22nd July 2010 –