Gloucestershire Conservatives are celebrating an early Christmas present today, with the news that the Government has scrapped plans for regional fire control centres. The Labour scheme would have seen Gloucester’s Fire Control centre closed and moved to a regional call centre in Taunton. The project has so far cost taxpayers in excess of £420m – despite an original budget of only £120m – and has been consistently opposed by Gloucestershire Conservatives.
As Fire Minister, former Gloucester Labour MP, Parmjit Dhanda, who lost his seat in the general election, was responsible for pushing the project forward in the face of opposition from local residents.
Cllr Mark Hawthorne, Leader of Gloucestershire County Council, commented:
“The Government has done exactly as promised and scrapped the regional Fire Control project. Labour’s crazy scheme would has wasted millions and would have put lives in Gloucestershire at risk – I am overjoyed it has been scrapped. This is the outcome of months and years of campaigning for Gloucestershire’s Conservative councillors and MPs. I would like to particularly thank Fire Minister Bob Neil and Secretary of State for Communities Eric Pickles for this excellent decision.”
In his statement Bob Neil said:
"The progress of the project has caused serious concern, and so in June this year I made it clear to the main FiReControl contractor, Cassidian (formerly EADS Defence & Security), that the main IT system must now be delivered to time, cost and quality. At this point, we activated a key milestone in their contract requiring the main IT system to be completed in three control centres by mid-2011.
"We told Cassidian that no additional taxpayers’ money could be invested in this project, nor would delivery of a system of reduced quality or functionality be acceptable.
"Following extensive discussion with Cassidian, we have jointly concluded, with regret, that the requirements of the project cannot be delivered to an acceptable timeframe. Therefore the best outcome for the taxpayer and the fire and rescue community is for the contract to be terminated with immediate effect. Cassidian and the Department for Communities and Local Government have reached an acceptable settlement over this although the details will remain commercially confidential."