Socialist Worker

Firefighters' union hits out at control room closure plan

by Anindya Bhattacharyya
Issue No. 2035

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has hit out at government plans to close all 46 local fire control rooms in England and amalgamate them into nine regional control fire control rooms.

The FBU has the backing of an independent study that supports the union's concerns.

The government scheme, dubbed FireControl, is part of what it calls 'a wide-scale programme of reform and modernisation' across the fire service.

It cites the 'war on terror' as the main reason behind the change – arguing that 'increased level of threat' means that fire control centres have to be 'security accredited' and 'resilient'.

In fact the changes are in line with the neoliberal 'reform' project being pursued across the public sector. These 'reforms' inevitably lead to worsened conditions for workers and a worsened service to the public.

'There is a very real concern that the true costs of this project will turn out to be more than the original estimates,' says FBU general secretary Matt Wrack.

'If that happens it will have to be paid for by raising the council tax or making savings through cuts in local frontline fire services.'

Matt pointed to a report by the Institute of Public Finance, published this week, says that the project is being pushed through 'without knowing the whole picture about costs or savings' and needs to be 'reassessed'.

Other FBU officials have pointed to safety concerns. 'Everything is based on IT and satellite navigation,' FBU Yorkshire and Humberside secretary Sean Cahill told the Yorkshire Post.

'I would rather rely on local knowledge of people gained over years. More and more calls now come from mobile phones and people have no idea where they are. We've been told there will be GPS in fire engines but there's no indication when this will happen.'

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Article information

Sat 27 Jan 2007, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 2035
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