Cumbria fire union takes control centre fight to Westminster

A petition to save Cumbria's emergency fire control centre has been handed in at Westminster by union officials.

The council plans to shut the control room in June with the loss of 12 posts.

Signed petitions have been presented to the chair of Cumbria County Council and local MP Tim Farron by the Fire Brigades' Union.

A council spokesperson said: "We accept there is some opposition, but our priority is to ensure we keep the people of Cumbria safe."

The council plans to move the work to Cheshire fire service's fire control, until 2014, as part of a two-stage move to a regional control centre.

A 3,300-signature petition opposing the move was presented by the union at a council meeting in Kendal on Thursday and a further 17,000-name petition was handed to local MP Tim Farron.

Cumbria, Cheshire, Greater Manchester and Lancashire fire services will share a centre by 2014, operating under the name North West Fire Control Limited.

Cumbria council unanimously approved the move in September 2011.

Cumbria FBU brigade secretary Adrian Kevern, said: "The county council has still not thought through what it is doing. They are ignoring the first stage of the move to Cheshire which is imminent and are concentrating only on the second stage move to the regional control.

"Both are fraught with difficulties and risks and to ignore the first step is just not acceptable. This is the imminent closure of the only 999 emergency fire control centre in Cumbria that fire crews and the public rely on to keep them safe.

'Enhanced call-handling'

"We need proper public scrutiny and consultation, and this has still not happened in Cumbria. We made powerful arguments which are being ignored by the council and we are now taking our concerns to Westminster."

However, Councillor Gary Strong, cabinet member for community safety and local services, said the move was the "right decision".

"We owe it to the people of Cumbria to have the most effective system in place for responding to emergency fire and rescue incidents and realistically this can only be achieved by joining forces with other authorities in the north west fire control room project," he said.

"Of course we understand this is not an easy time for staff in the Cumbria control room, but the decision we've taken is in the best interests of the county as it will provide us with an enhanced call-handling function that better directs the available firefighting resources."

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