Devon

Devon and Somerset fire service 'scraps' £630k IT project

Protest
Image caption The fire service is planning to close eight stations - sparking protests across Devon and Somerset

A cash-strapped fire service has scrapped an IT project that cost £631,000 but was branded "ill-conceived and overly complicated" by a union.

Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service said it had to save £8.4m in the next three years and has planned to close eight fire stations.

The system was used to manage staff training needs and bosses said it was good value but no system was perfect.

But the Fire Brigades Union said it was a "waste of time and money".

James Leslie, from the union, said the contract should never have been signed off and the money should have been used more wisely.

He said the programme was difficult to use, "never really took off and had been officially scrapped" and replaced with one that was "user-friendly".

Image caption James Leslie said the IT programme should never have been commissioned

Mr Leslie said part of the programme was never released and as a result training went unrecorded and staff were struggling to find availability on courses.

However, the fire service disputed these claims.

The service said the programme was operational from 2016 until earlier this year but "due to a number of factors" it ended and a new system was developed.

Alex Hanson, Assistant Chief Fire Officer, said the project was "fundamental" in supporting firefighter training.

"No system is completely perfect," he said.

Mr Hanson said many elements from the original project were moved across to the new system.

In June, the fire service said it wanted to bring an outdated service into the 21st Century and announced the planned closure of eight stations - seven in Devon and one in Somerset.

The service said it had saved £12.2m over the past five years but still had to "make significant financial savings" because of reduced funding and rising costs.

However, the Home Office said the authority would have £75.6m to spend in 2019-2020 - an increase of £1.9m compared with 2018-2019.

Mr Hanson added the £631,000 was "one-off capital funding to develop a vital system for staff" and could not have been used for wages or savings.

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