Berkshire fire service considering control room merger

Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service is considering sharing control rooms with its neighbouring Surrey brigade, it has emerged.

Under the plan Surrey's Reigate control centre would handle 999 calls usually dealt with at Dee Road in Tilehurst.

The Berkshire service said the merger was an option because the plan for a regional centre for the South East in Hampshire "was still two years away".

But the South East's Fire Brigade Union (FBU) said lives could be put at risk.

The centre in Hampshire will cover Kent, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, Isle of Wight, Surrey, Sussex and Oxfordshire.

'Decision time'

Olaf Bars, Berkshire's deputy chief fire officer said: "We have tried not to spend more money than is necessary on our control centre on Dee Road because we knew all along that we were supposed to be moving out.

"The time has come when we have either got to make a significant investment in the technology there or we have got to do something different [and] this is one of the areas we are currently looking at.

"I have been meeting with senior staff in Surrey but I would think that by the end of the year we would have a decision."

But Sharon Riley, from the union, said: "We believe Mr Bars is showing a clear lack of understanding for the role of our control staff.

"Firefighters on the ground need accurate information at the time of the call in order to deploy their own local knowledge.

"It is imperative that they know where the caller is ringing from before we mobilise the fire station."

Mr Bars added: "[Local knowledge] comes from the firefighters and all our fire stations and that information is put within the IT systems and is available wherever you are."

Last month, the BBC learned the £423m project for nine new regional control rooms - approved by the previous government - to be built across England could be scaled back to five.

The previous government said they would cut costs and improve response times.

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