England

North West regional fire centre plan revived

Plans to create a regional fire control centre for the North West, which were cancelled by the government, are to be revived by local fire services.

Cheshire, Cumbria, Greater Manchester, Lancashire and Merseyside Fire Services are proposing a move from local control rooms to a regional centre by 2014.

A building to house the regional control room in Warrington was completed but remains empty.

Regional fire authorities will consider the plans during September.

In 2004 the Labour government announced plans to merge 46 fire control rooms and create nine regional centres.

After delays and cost rises that scheme was cancelled by the coalition government in December 2010.

'Collaborative venture'

The services estimate the total savings generated by the regional centre over a 12-year period from 2011-23 would be £19.4m.

Maintaining the current local centres would cost the five authorities a combined total of £89.8m over the same period.

The government has offered a subsidy of about £37m towards the running of the control room, which would operate under the name North West Fire Control Limited.

Paul Hancock, head of Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service, said: "This is about providing efficiencies and savings, improving technology, and it's about improving the safety of firefighters on the ground.

"The fire and rescue services would be in full control of the project without the complications or bureaucracy involved in trying to co-ordinate 40 plus services across England to deliver regional control centres.

"Hopefully we'll get agreement across all five services to move forward with a collaborative venture, with implementation by 2014."

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