Report slams fire centre wasted cash

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AN ABANDONED project to run a regionalised fire control centre has been slammed by an official report.

The independent National Audit Office said the national project, launched by the previous Labour government, was flawed from the start.

It added that the almost half a billion pounds invested nationally in the scheme was wasted, claiming it could have funded Tyne and Wear and Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Services for five years without any cuts.

The Department for Communities and Local Government was accused of rushing through plans to replace 46 fire control rooms in England with nine purpose-built regional centres without the support of local fire and rescue services.

David Corner, who led the research, said: “The report is a catalogue of what not to do.

“The complexity of turning 46 fire control stations into nine was difficult, especially with the level of antagonism and disagreements with the contractors.”

The report also reveals that the Durham Fire Control site, which has never been used for the correct purpose, costs £93,033 a month in rent. With a 20-year lease that started in April 2008, the eventual bill will total more than £27million.

Mr Corner added that there were also are running costs on top.

County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue said the failure of the national Firecontrol project was “disappointing” and it was considering alternative options for the future provision of its control room service.

Chief executive Susan Johnson said: “The project has left behind a highly resilient building in the heart of Durham.

“It would be a shame if the building cannot be used by the fire service for the benefit of people in County Durham and Darlington.”