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Future of Cumbria 999 fire calls base discussed

  • 9-8-2011

Emergency fire calls made in Cumbria could be answered in Cheshire under plans to be considered next week.

In December, the government said a scheme for nine regional fire control centres in England would be scrapped.

Cumbria County Council's cabinet will consider a proposal to transfer fire 999 call handing and engine deployment to Warrington.

The aim is to improve the service and cut costs. Fire Brigades Union concerns include losing local knowledge.

Under the scrapped plans, the 46 fire control centres would have been replaced by nine, including a North West base.

Currently 999 calls are dealt with by the control room in Cockermouth.

The report, which will be considered next week, recommends that the council agrees that Cumbria becomes a full partner in a North West collaboration for a control room.

'Backwards step'

The plan would involve transferring responsibility for 999 call handling and sending out fire engines to a local authority controlled company based at a single centre in Warrington.

Council cabinet member for the fire and rescue service, Councillor Gary Strong, said it would "improve resilience and functionality" and mean savings.

He said: "This kind of opportunity is something that every level of the public sector, including fire authorities, must consider.

"We have a good track record of working together and I feel the move has the potential to maintain and improve the delivery of our control service."

The control room plan will also be considered by Lancashire, Merseyside, Greater Manchester and Cheshire fire authorities.

Cath Smith from the Fire Brigades Union said: "I think it's going to be a backwards step.

"You are going to have loss of accountability for the people of Cumbria and what Cumbria wants, loss of ownership of your fire service, basically you are privatising your fire service from the call taking side of it."

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Reproduced under licence from BBC News © 2011 BBC

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