Yorkshire fire chiefs in 999 overhaul

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Fire chiefs in Yorkshire are set to pump millions of pounds into new technology for handling 999 calls.

Brigade bosses in West and South Yorkshire have won a £3.6m central government grant to develop a mobilising system that will let them handle each other’s calls during busy periods.

Yesterday’s grant announcement came less than six months after a report revealed that a previous joint working project – the ill-fated FireControl scheme – had cost taxpayers more than half a billion pounds.

It was launched by the last Labour government with the intention of replacing England’s 46 fire and rescue control rooms with nine regional centres.

Coalition ministers pulled the plug on the scheme in 2010 and today a regional centre built in Wakefield for use by all four of Yorkshire and Humberside’s brigades remains empty.

Fire chiefs hope the new set-up – which will see the West and South Yorkshire brigades retaining separate control rooms on their own patches – will be operational by 2014.

They say it should generate long-term efficiency savings of more than £400,000 each year.

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As part of the overhaul, West Yorkshire’s control room will be moved from its existing location at the brigade’s Birkenshaw headquarters to a site in Bramley, Leeds. Other departments currently based at Birkenshaw will remain where they are.

The Bramley premises are already owned by West Yorkshire Fire Authority.

West Yorkshire’s deputy chief fire officer, Steve Beckley, said: “A fully-integrated mobilising system will enable both brigades to manage their own control rooms independently while enjoying lower unit costs and far greater resilience and security.

“The monies from central government could not have come at a more critical time for essential investment in the 999 infrastructure.”

The FireControl project was axed after contractor Cassidian said it could not promise to deliver it on schedule and to budget.

Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee issued a report last September describing the scheme as “a complete failure”.

A spokesman for the West Yorkshire brigade today said the Wakefield-based FireControl centre was too big for it to consider moving into by itself.

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