Monday, January 30, 2006

Firefighters reject plans for single 999 centre

Firefighters reject plans for single 999 centre
by Stuart Arnold

FIREFIGHTERS in the North-East have massively rejected plans for a single fire control centre to handle all 999 emergency calls.

In a poll conducted by the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), 86 per cent of firefighters said the Government should halt the project, which will replace control rooms in Cleveland, Durham and Northumbria.

The FBU said it was a "body blow" for the Government's plans, which are aimed at providing a more resilient system at times of extreme strain, such as natural disaster or terrorist attack.

Work has already begun on the new multi-million pound fire control centre in the North-East, based at Belmont Business Park, near Durham City, which is due to open in about two years.

The FBU, which questioned a random sample of its members across the North-East, said 89 per cent believed the move would not improve the response to incidents, while 92 per cent said their own safety would not be improved.
The Government has argued there is a "compelling" need to modernise and rationalise control rooms in England and has pledged that the new centres will better protect the public.

But Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary said: "The poll findings are a body blow for these plans. Those who really know the fire service and what these proposals mean, have given them a massive thumbs down. Those who will have to deal with the consequences of the proposals clearly have little confidence in them.
"Despite intense propaganda, the Government has failed to win support for these plans from those who know most about them. The clear message from the frontline is that we do not want Whitehall-imposed regional control rooms."
The FBU says much of the new technology involved is untested.

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