Regional fire centre project “wasted” more than �400m

A Norfolk MP condemned a project to establish regional fire control rooms, which has been dubbed a 'comprehensive failure' in a new report.

A damning report from the National Audit Office (NAO) today reveals that the Firecontrol project, which was launched by the previous Labour government, has 'wasted' almost half a billion pounds of taxpayers' money.

The scheme, which resulted in the construction of a �23m regional control centre at Waterbeach, near Cambridge that has sat empty since its construction, was scrapped by the coalition government in December.

But the NAO report says that the initiative was flawed from the start because it did not have the support of fire and rescue services and at least �469m had been wasted.

The Department for Communities and Local Government was accused of rushing the start of the programme to replace the 46 fire control rooms in England with nine purpose-built regional centres, and of failing to follow proper procedures.

No computer system had been delivered and eight of the new control centres remained empty and costly to maintain, said the report.

South Norfolk MP Richard Bacon, who is a member of the Commons public accounts committee, said the Labour government had undertaken a regionalisation project without proper consultation and no understanding of the complexity involved.

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'Local Fire and Rescue Services should have been left alone to get on with their job. At best, the failed Firecontrol project has wasted around half a billion pounds of taxpayers' money and all DCLG has to show for it is eight empty control centres. This herd of white elephants will go on draining taxpayers' money until DCLG's lease expires in 2035'.

'If fire and rescue services do collaborate in the future, it must be their decision based on a strong local case, not because of Whitehall diktat,' he said.

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