Fire service shake up announced

FIRE service control rooms at the six East of England fire brigades will be merged into a single regional centre within three years.Senior officers have been given just three months by Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott to start work on setting up a joint regional management board to oversee the establishment of the new purpose-built control centre.

FIRE service control rooms at the six East of England fire brigades will be merged into a single regional centre within three years.

Senior officers have been given just three months by Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott to start work on setting up a joint regional management board to oversee the establishment of the new purpose-built control centre.

But MPs, councillors and the Fire Brigades Union have pledged to fight what they believe is the first step towards the abolition of the county brigades, to be replaced by a regional fire and rescue authority.

Chris Mole, the Labour MP for Ipswich, added: "There is no strong evidence for the case for regionalism on this issue and I am not persuaded by the fascination of the Civil Service for the introduction of regional fire brigades."


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The Fire Brigades Union warned the proposal for a regional control centre was a recipe for poor response times and mistakes.

Graham Noakes, its regional secretary, said: "You will lose an extremely valuable amount of local knowledge when you regionalise. There could be slower response times and a greater margin of error."

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Now the chief fire officers of the Suffolk, Norfolk and Hertfordshire fire brigades are in talks with their counterparts on the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, Essex, Southend and Thurrock, and Bedfordshire and Luton fire authorities to set up a joint regional management board.

The proposed joint regional management board will comprise councillors from each major authority in the region.

It will oversee the establishment of a purpose-built regional control centre, responsible for dealing with residential and industrial fires, as well as emergencies and rescues on:

n large sections of four of Britain's busiest motorways – M1, A1 (M), M11 and M25 and the Dartford crossings

n Stansted, Luton, Southend, Norwich and Cambridge Airports

n port complexes at Harwich, Felixstowe and Tilbury

n railway lines into Fenchurch Street, Liverpool Street, Euston, St Pancras and King's Cross stations, as well sections of London Underground's Central and Metropolitan lines

n nuclear power plants at Sizewell and Bradwell, the gas terminal at Bacton and oil refineries on the River Thames

n army headquarters in Colchester and military bases and airfields in Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire.

However, the Government – which will fund the new headquarters and the associated Firelink radio control – has abandoned the controversial proposal to integrate fire, police and ambulance control rooms.

Suffolk Chief Fire Officer Malcolm Alcock said: "At the moment, the fire service's priorities are determined locally, delivered locally and managed locally. We have to co-operate to get the best possible outcome for the county and its Council Tax payers."

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