New bill shock over axed West Yorkshire fire centre

West Yorkshire's white elephant regional fire control centre could be a drain on the taxpayers for another 20 years, the YEP can reveal.

The Government is locked into a long term lease on the centre in the Paragon Business Village in Wakefield, which was completed two years ago but has been standing empty at a cost of 5,132 a day.

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

However, ministers are still encouraging fire brigades to consider

leaving their existing control room and use the new centres instead, although they have not been fully fitted out with the complicated IT equipment which was originally intended.

A consultation document reveals that the Government has signed a 20 to 25-year lease on each of the buildings.

Ministers are now offering fire brigades first refusal on using the centres – Wakefield's boasts a 6,000 coffee machine and "industrial" sized kitchen – but are also willing to consider handing them over the other organisations.

The chiefs of the four brigades in Yorkshire and Humberside have already met to discuss the option of moving their control rooms but no decisions have been made.

West Yorkshire Fire Service currently handles emergency calls in its Birkenshaw control centre.

A spokesman said: "We are confident our system in West Yorkshire is OK in the short term. We would have been one of the losers if we had moved into the new complex because we are comparatively efficient."

The Government consultation document points out that costs on the buildings have continued to mount due to project delays – which means there will be less money for brigades who keep their existing control rooms.

The total bill for all nine of the buildings is 18 million a year – 12 million in rent and 6 million for other costs.

The document states: "Now that the project has been cancelled, the department must continue to underwrite the cost of the leases.

"This will reduce the overall amount of funding that will be available for fire and rescue authorities to improve their control services unless these buildings become part of the authorities' plans or other users can be found.

"It will not be possible to fund all fire and rescue authorities' priorities."

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