GREENS REJECT REGIONAL FIRE CONTROL SERVICE [Media release]
Green Party Councillors are asking Norwich City Council to oppose the Government's plans to merge the fire control services of Norfolk and other counties in East Anglia into a regional control centre which would receive emergency calls and manage the fire service response. The councillors say the plan, known as FireControl, lacks the confidence of firefighting professionals who are worried that regional centres would lack sufficent call handling capacity and local knowledge.
Norwich Green Party councillor, Adrian Holmes is submitting a motion to the City Council's next meeting, on Tuesday 31st March, urging the council to voice opposition and press the government to rethink its plan.
Councillor Holmes said
"Norfolk has one of the best fire services in the country and this plan will do nothing to improve it and may even damage its capacity to deal with incidents. Responses to incidents in Norfolk are best managed from a Norfolk control centre with local knowledge."
Councillor Rupert Read, the Green Party's Lead Candidate for the June 4th European elections said
"'I am worried that in East Anglia the fire services' capacity to cope during a major disaster, like the one which happened at Buncefield oil storage depot in Hertfordshire, may be diminished if the proposed new regional fire control system is pushed through, as there are grave doubts about the proposed system's call handling capacity.
Regional fire control centres only make sense in the context of a regional fire service and regional government - ideas which the government has abandoned.
It's also clear that the funds could be better spent. Management consultants have swallowed up over £40 million, underused regional control centres are costing many millions of pounds in rent and a report by the Institute of Public Finance (IPP) reveals that the overall project costs are exceeding £1.4 billion. This at a time when the region's fire services still need money to be able to tackle major flooding incidents or outdoor fires. The people who risk their lives, the firefighters, are saying the funds would be better spent on frontline."
The Motion: Protecting Norfolk's Fire Control Service (Councillor Holmes to move): This Council Notes:
1. That the Government has acknowledged the excellent work of Norfolk's Fire Control Service by placing it in the top rank of services throughout the country.
2. That the Government is planning to amalgamate county fire services into regional centres.
3. The stated reason for the Government embarking on this reorganisation is to bring other fire services, ranked at a lower level, up to the standard of Norfolk.
This Council believes:
1. That the proposed amalgamation would reduce the effectiveness of Norfolk's Fire Control Service by taking away local knowledge and introducing inferior equipment.
2. That the Government is misguided in trying to raise the standards of other fire services by reducing the effectiveness of Norfolk's fire service.
This Council resolves:
1. To write to the Government and ask that the reorganisation be suspended pending further investigation into the costs of the reorganisation and the likely deterioration in service.
2. To write to Norfolk County Council and asking it to make similar representations to the Government.
3. To write to the trade unions of Norfolk's firefighters to express support for their stand against the proposed amalgamation.
(1) FBU February 2009: http://www.fbu.org.uk/newspress/circulars/circ2009/pdf/5030%20FBU%20Response.pdf