Cumbria County Council backs shared fire control centre

Plans to create a North West fire control centre have been unanimously approved by Cumbria County Council.

Cheshire, Cumbria, Greater Manchester, Lancashire and Merseyside Fire Services will share a regional centre by 2014.

It means up to 15 jobs will go at the call base in Cockermouth when calls are taken from Warrington in 2012.

The county's chief fire officer Dominic Harrison dismissed concerns that a lack of local knowledge by call handlers would put lives at risk.

The fire services estimate the total savings generated by the regional centre could be £19.4m by 2023.

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

'Risk lives'

However, some people in Cumbria are worried the regional base could affect the speed of services and potentially risk lives.

Lesley Bowers, a former control centre call handler, said: "It's alright them [the fire service] saying that local knowledge doesn't count, but it does really count.

"Cumbria is a very rural area, you get a lot of visitors here who don't know where they are and people with local knowledge can pinpoint where somebody is who is in distress... I think potentially it could risk lives."

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.

Chief fire officer, Dominic Harrison, said: "I think the local knowledge thing is overplayed, I think technology has a part to play and I think the vast majority of our local knowledge exists on the fire engines.

"By keeping our fire engines, which we are... the local knowledge that our fire fighters have remains in the county."

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