Fire Authority decision on future of control room

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Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service's control room

30 September 2011

Buckinghamshire & Milton Keynes Fire Authority has tasked senior managers with bringing forward a detailed business case to enter into a partnership with Cambridgeshire Fire & Rescue Service for the provision of emergency control room services.

At Wednesday’s (28 September 2011) meeting in Milton Keynes, the Fire Authority gave careful consideration to a range of options, including the possibility of a partnership with Royal Berkshire and Oxfordshire Fire & Rescue Services. It decided that a partnership with Cambridgeshire, to which Suffolk Fire & Rescue Service has already transferred its control function, appeared to offer the best combination of service, value and readiness to undertake the Fire Authority’s fire control business.

The development follows the cancellation of a government project, called FiReControl, which would have replaced the 46 fire service control rooms in England with nine regional centres. The project was announced in 2003 and scrapped in December last year after a number of delays. Under this project, Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service and the other eight fire and rescue services in the South East would have shared a control room in Fareham, Hampshire, from 2012. Click on the link at the top of the page to see the announcement made by Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service when the project was cancelled.

Fire Authority Chairman Councillor David Rowlands said: “Following the previous government’s disastrous handling of this project, it was inevitable that some form of rationalisation of fire controls would result.

“We carefully considered a range of options, including a partnership with our close partners in the Thames Valley, outsourcing to London Fire Brigade or remaining as a standalone control serving only Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes. In the end, we opted for what we felt would deliver the best result at lower cost to our taxpayers.”

Councillor Andy Dransfield, Vice-Chairman, said: “The future of the fire control staff of this service has hung in a position of uncertainty for too long. I am pleased that the Fire Authority has approved a position which will provide continued high standards of control and mobilising for the service at much reduced cost to the taxpayers.

“Our officers have done a lot of work to bring forward detailed proposals. We have asked them to ensure that, as our partnership proposals are developed, all of the value we hope for is achieved and that service standards are maintained.” 

Chief Fire Officer Mark Jones said: “We have been given a clear mandate to engage with Cambridgeshire Fire & Rescue Service with a view to transferring our control functions to their fire control, in the same way in which Suffolk has done.

“It is clear that better value for the taxpayers we serve is possible through such a partnership. While the public will notice no change in the emergency service they receive, the costs of delivering that service will reduce. We hope to receive government funding for any transitional costs and will work closely with our new partners to try to secure it.

“Traditionally, we have worked closely with our neighbours in Royal Berkshire and Oxfordshire, and that close interaction will continue. The Fire Authority felt that the scale of the work involved and consequently the time it would take to realise savings was not preferable to making similar savings in a far shorter space of time.

“I would wish to pay tribute to our own control staff who have served us well despite many years of uncertainty over the future of local controls. I know that this will continue as we move forward.”