Fire HQ axed - having never answered a call

YORKSHIRE'S beleaguered regional fire control centre has been axed at a cost of more than £25m – without ever responding to an emergency call.

After years of delays and spiralling costs, the coalition has finally abandoned the previous government's 423m project to replace England's 46 local control rooms with nine state-of-the-art "super centres".

A regional control centre was completed in Wakefield two years ago but – amid a catalogue of technical problems – was still not due to take over the handling of fire calls from West Yorkshire's Birkenshaw control room July 2012.

The YEP last year revealed the how the facility was standing empty at a cost of 153,956 a month or 5,132 a day.

The waste involved in the project was symbolised by the fact that the centre at the Paragon Business Village boasted a 6,000 luxury coffee machine.

It yesterday emerged that, nationally, the government has already sunk 230m of taxpayers' money into the failed project – equivalent to 25.5m for each centre.

The amount would have paid the salaries of 8,214 experienced firefighters for one year.

Announcing the decision yesterday, Fire Minister Bob Neill said the government had reached an agreement with the project's main contractor Cassidian, formerly EADS Defence & Security, "to call a halt to the troubled project".

Mr Neill said: "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."

A government official said it was still hoped the new regional control rooms would be used by brigades, although without the complex computer equipment involved in the axed project.

A spokesman for West Yorkshire fire service said the scrapping of the scheme "has come as no surprise".

He added: "We have confidence in our control and communication capability and in the short-term have investedinthelatestmobilisingtechnology."

Matt Wrack, general secretary of the Fire Brigades' Union, said: "For seven years we have been sounding the alarm about this project.

"While it was going on, staff in fire control have been treated appallingly, and I hope that their security of employment can be confirmed."

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