County loses fire control

SUFFOLK'S fire service control room is to be moved to Cambridge so it can deal better with "terrorist attacks or natural disasters", the government announced today .

SUFFOLK'S fire service control room is to be moved to Cambridge so it can deal better with "terrorist attacks or natural disasters", the government announced today .

The news of the new regional control centre's location has been met with anger from the Fire Brigades Union, who threatened more strike action and say it could put lives at risk.

The union says the relocation of a control centre away from Suffolk will result in the loss of local knowledge, which it says is often crucial in ensuring a rapid response to deadly fire incidents.

Carl Francis, officers' section secretary for the union, said today: "There is huge concern the local knowledge will be lost and, in effect, we will be served by a large call centre in Cambridge.

"Fire and rescue authorities and their availability is quite complex and the local knowledge greatly helps the way they are mobilised. Certainly the service will be reduced by a regional control room."

Mr Francis said: "There is certainly the potential throughout the region for members to feel so strongly to lead them to taking action to preserve their local control rooms."

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Suffolk County Council's portfolio holder for public protection, Joanna Spicer said they had always had "strong concerns" about the proposal but added: "We must accept the decision and work as an authority to support and work with our valued control room staff."

"We will work through the new Regional Management Board to do everything we can to help develop the new control room so when it opens in 2008 the people of Suffolk, our crews and staff do not suffer and public confidence is maintained."

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) declared the new East of England Fire and Rescue control centre would help deliver the best possible service to the public.

Nationally nine control centres will replace the existing 46 local fire service control rooms across the country.

ODPM Minister Jim Fitzpatrick MP said: "There is a compelling need to modernise and rationalise the control rooms in England, as part of the overall modernisation agenda.

"In the post-9/11 world, and in the wake of the events of 7th July, we need control centres that are resilient enough to deal with a terrorist attack or deal with any natural disaster."

"While existing control rooms do a good job, they are not designed to deal in a co-ordinated way with major regional or national incidents - they need improvement and investment."

The ODPM said Cambridge Research Park was chosen for the new regional centre after it took into account factors such as accessibility, demographics, vulnerability to threats such as flooding and being suitable for development.

Work on the Cambridge centre will begin in 2007.

Meanwhile firefighters look set to go out on strike again tomorrow afternoon after the latest talks failed to end their dispute with the county council over proposed cuts.

Union bosses met with Suffolk County Council yesterday - but both sides emerged from the talks no closer to solving the dispute that has led to strike action.

The meeting, held in Ipswich, followed three strikes called by the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) in protest at the council's plan to axe 12 posts responsible for crewing the turntable ladder in Bury St Edmunds.

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