The Government’s controversial plans to close all 46 emergency fire control rooms in England have spiralled to £1 billion and could hit £2 billion according to fire minister Jim Fitzpatrick. The figures were originally published in the Winsford Chronicle in Cheshire – quoting Jim Fitzpatrick - and subsequently confirmed by him at a meeting with FBU members in Cambridgeshire when challenged about the newspaper’s report.
The Fire Brigades Union points to warnings in the Government’s own business case for regional controls that there was a “high risk” that spiralling costs will lead to pressure to cut frontline services and could push up council tax. The business case also said the plan had a “high risk” of “total project failure” because of the Government’s appalling track record in technology projects.
FBU General secretary Matt Wrack said:
“It was incompetent of Government to sign up to plans before they knew the horrendous costs involved. It is irresponsible of them to fail to accept they made a mistake and think again.
“£2 billion is more than the £1.7 billion annual budget of the entire fire service. A vast amount of money desperately needed for frontline services will be diverted to a technology project which won’t save a single life.
“We now face the very real risk of cuts to frontline fire services to pay for the rising costs of this project. We need an independent assessment of these plans before they are allowed to proceed any further.”
The original local newspaper report citing the £2 billion figure quoted the fire minister Jimmy Fitzpatrick as saying the project will cost £1 billion but may hit £2 billion. Source Winsford Chronicle August 17 2005.
Challenged on this figure at a meeting with fire crews in Norfolk late on 22 August, Mr Fitzpatrick confirmed the figures of £1 billion and £2 billion reported in the article were accurate.