MPs seeking answers on delayed £350m fire service project

A government committee is set to launch an investigation into the delayed £350 million FiReControl programme.

The IT-driven programme aims to consolidate the 46 Fire Service control centres into nine large regional centres. It is part of the £1 billion Fire and Resilience programme overhauling the fire and rescue services.

Delays to the scheme mean the government has been unable to proceed to plan with the closure of the control centres. A new centre in London was supposed to open at least a year ahead of the 2012 Olympic Games, but this is no longer seen as likely.

Problems on the programme were criticised in the summer by the Fire Brigades Union, which called it a “scandalous waste of public money”.

Delays to interior fittings and IT rollouts at the centres “will leave the government paying another £15 million in rents to keep the new regional control centres empty for longer”, it claimed.

“But there will be more to pay for the army of consultants, civil servants and project managers needed to try and deliver the project pushing the costs of the delay, the union estimates, above £30 million,” it added.

The government has in the past maintained that the project will deliver its benefits.

The Communities and Local Government Committee yesterday said it will undertake a “brief inquiry” into the programme, which is led by supplier EADS and is also being examined by the government’s own spending auditors, the National Audit Office.

The committee will take a wide-ranging view, while the NAO focuses on programme management and procurement. It will examine progress on the project, as well as reasons for cost and time overruns, and may make recommendations on changes needed to make the project succeed.

It invited comments of up to 3,000 words by 8 January from anyone wishing to give evidence, and there will be an oral evidence session in February.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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