St Albans firefighters protest against service cuts

PUBLISHED: 06:52 28 October 2009 | UPDATED: 14:36 06 May 2010

A HANDFUL of local firefighters joined forces with colleagues from around the country to protest against proposed cuts to the service. They gathered in Westminster last week to lobby MPs over the Government s plans to regionalise control room services and

A HANDFUL of local firefighters joined forces with colleagues from around the country to protest against proposed cuts to the service.

They gathered in Westminster last week to lobby MPs over the Government's plans to regionalise control room services and other potential cuts to local services.

The control room for Herts Fire and Rescue service is currently in Stevenage but plans to close that and develop a centralised service for East Anglia have been in motion for a number of years.

But the Fire Brigade Union (FBU) argue that this will have a detrimental impact on services as control room staff won't have the local knowledge they do at present.

The local FBU chair, Steve Duncan, who is based at Hatfield fire station, said: "It will have a terribly detrimental effect. No one in the fire service wants it. The only people that want this white elephant are a few politicians."

He said that £100 million was originally earmarked for the scheme - called FiReControl - but the estimated costs are now far higher.

A spokesperson for the Department for Communities and Local Government said that on current planning assumptions the cost of the centralisation project will be £420 million.

She continued: "We are committed to getting it right by developing the new system to rigorous standards that ensure public safety and meet fire and rescue service requirements. No authority will bear any additional cost through the move to FiReControl."

She insisted that local knowledge would not be lost as it will form part of the information available to every control centre as part of the new national IT system.

In addition, the FBU is also concerned about possible financial cuts being made by Herts County Council, which is currently investigating where money could be saved.

A spokesperson for the council said: "The safety of residents, and our own staff, has always been, and always will be our priority.

"There are tough financial times ahead, for both the private and public sector, including Herts Fire and Rescue Service, but we are working with our staff to face these difficult times together."

She continued by saying that every aspect of the service, including non-operational locations, will be looked at to determine if there are more efficient ways of working.

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