Leaked letter warns “unacceptable” move towards regional emergency fire controls has “significant flaws”

A leaked letter between fire chiefs has starkly exposed the dangers of Government led moves to regionalise emergency fire control rooms. The letter exposes what it calls “significant flaws” in the plans drawn up by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister.

The plans to regionalise fire control rooms have caused a storm of protest in local and regional media since they were unveiled in November last year.

The letter warns that moves to regional controls:

is being driven by government civil servants, not local councils
will weaken local democracy
will weaken local accountability;
will lead to a worse service
strip away local control of resources.

The letter from East Sussex Chief Fire Officer Desmond Pritchard to West Sussex Chief Fire Officer M Burrell dated 7 June refers to the South East of England. But the flaws exposed apply to all fire authorities and shows growing disquiet among fire and rescue service professionals and local councillors.

The letter reinforces the Fire Brigades Union’s own warnings that the moves will damage the service and burden local councils with the expense of picking up the pieces when things go wrong. It also confirms the entire project is being forced on councils by central Government civil servants with the backing of a handful of fire service cheerleaders.

The letter warns the creation of regional fire control rooms:

“Potentially brings into conflict the ability for a Fire Authority to manage its own resources and deliver its own Integrated Risk Management Plan.” (Local fire and rescue plans).

“…to allow the current proposals to go forward will undermine and inhibit the ability of an individual Fire Authority to separately manage its own resources.”

“I believe we are allowing civil servants and other stakeholders, including I must say some Fire and Rescue Service professionals, to take us down a path which is politically unacceptable to politicians in the South East.”

“We cannot in my opinion however, allow the project to continue in its present form as there are a number of significant flaws which must be put right before it is too late.”

The letter warns the project “will lead to a loss of local accountability, democracy and responsibility for delivering their Fire and Rescue Service and improving local community well-being.”

Val Salmon, FBU spokeswoman on emergency fire control issues said: “This confirms a growing belief that central Government is trying to force through a crackpot plan on local councils. These plans are fundamentally flawed and everyone knows it.

“The loss of brigade emergency control rooms will leave us in a worse position to deal with emergency calls and weakens our ability to deal with major terrorist and other incidents. It will lead to a worse service and not a better one.

“Almost every reason given to justify these moves is wrong. More councillors and fire chiefs have to come out of hiding on this issue and make clear the views they express privately.

“The fire and rescue service is a high quality public service because it is locally accountable. We must not let central Government wreck it. These plans must be stopped.”

Notes: the plans are to reduce 49 brigade control rooms in England (outside London) to 9 regional controls.

The full text of the letter is available on our website: Page 1 and Page 2

The union’s full response to the plans – Out of Control

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