�166,000 per month to keep 999 control empty

THE cost of keeping empty a controversial combined fire service hub has almost doubled in the past few months.

Rebecca Lefort

THE cost of keeping empty a controversial combined fire service hub has almost doubled in the past few months.

The �23million fire control centre in Cambridge Research Park at Waterbeach - five miles north of Cambridge city centre - was completed last year, and when it opens it will serve as the emergency 999 control room for fire services across East Anglia's six counties, including Suffolk and Essex.

But delays over IT software mean the centre can't open until 2011 at the earliest- and may never open at all if the Conservatives win the next election.

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In December the EADT revealed it was costing around �84,000 each month to keep the building mothballed. Now that figure has almost doubled to a staggering �166,000.

Duncan Milligan, spokesman for the Fire Brigade Union, said: “They still can't get the software to work which has caused these massive delays.

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“This system will never work as the government outlined it. At the moment it is a question of whether this government abandons the plans this year or the next government abandons them next year.”

He said monthly running costs had doubled this year because of the need for 24/7 security at the site and the fact rents, leasing and maintenance costs needed to be met.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Communities and Local Government said: "The East of England regional control centre is not standing idle.

“It is currently being used for meetings of the fire and rescue services including control room staff, workshops and training on the new systems for the centre.

“The centre is also being used by other interested organisations such as the ambulance service.

“As one in the network of nine regional centres it is in a programme to fit out the centres, then undergo essential staff training and system testing before each goes live.

"It will create a new nationally linked network of control centres for handling 999 calls and mobilising Fire and Rescue Service vehicles, replacing the 46 standalone control rooms in England.

“This will meet the needs of a modern fire service and continue to ensure the safety of the public for all types and scale of incident."

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