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MPs WARN OF THE NEED TO WIN SUPPORT FOR THE PROJECT TO CREATE REGIONAL FIRE CONTROL ROOMS

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The Fire and Rescue Service (FRS) is in a time of unprecedented change and...
The Fire and Rescue Service (FRS) is in a time of unprecedented change and

'modernisation'. The FRS Act 2004 set out new responsibilities and placed an emphasis on fire prevention. The Civil Contingencies Act also contained new duties on the FRS.

The government plans to amalgamate the 47 fire control rooms into nine regional

control centres. While the Communities and Local Government committee agreed that this project (FiReControl) will upgrade the technology used by most existing control rooms, it is concerned about the lack of information regarding funding arrangements, predicted efficiency savings, and service delivery as well as the widespread lack of confidence amongst fire authorities and organisations representing the FRS. The committee recommends that, if FiReControl is to have any hope of success, greater support should be achieved through fuller information, both on the specific project and the long term structure of the FRS.

House of Commons Communities and Local Government Committee

The Fire and Rescue Service

The committee welcomes the FireLink project, which is upgrading technology used for

communications between the FRS and other emergency services. However, there is an

urgent need for new technology to replace that used by firefighters to communicate on the ground, at an incident. This would enhance both resilience and the safety of

firefighters.

The committee heard that the impact of the shift towards prevention has had positive

implications and saved lives. It has not compromised the rescue role of the FRS. However, long term funding for fire prevention and other new duties will be needed to ensure that this remains so. The committee strongly supports the campaign for sprinklers to be fitted in all new and renovated schools.

Following incidents such as the July '05 attacks on London, the committee recommends

that government review equipment requirements. The committee also calls for a greater integration between day-to-day planning and planning for major catastrophic incidents.

The committee was very disappointed at the poor progress on diversity by the fire and rescue service and saw the government's leadership on the issue as half-hearted and ineffective. Similarly, it considers that the government should take the lead in ensuring that retained firefighters are recognised for the vital role they play within the FRS. The government needs a clear policy on the reforms affecting the retained service, including a timescale for action.

The committee welcomes the introduction of comprehensive performance assessment

for the FRS, which has been useful in identifying areas for improvement, and the planned independent operational assessment of fire and rescue authorities.

The committee was convinced of the life-saving benefit of the operational collaboration between the FRS and other emergency services. It recommends that a national coresponse protocol be developed.

Committee chair Phyllis Starkey said:

'This is a time of great change within the fire and rescue service. If the potential benefits of these reforms are to be fully realised, it is essential that the government and the fire service work together on an agreed agenda for change. That is not happening at the moment.'

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