Fire control rooms merger “far from a done deal”

THE proposed merger of fire control rooms in Cambridgeshire and Suffolk is “far from a done deal” according to the Fire Brigades Union.

THE proposed merger of fire control rooms in Cambridgeshire and Suffolk is “far from a done deal” according to the Fire Brigades Union.

Fire Authority councillors last Thursday (January 6) voted through plans that would see Suffolk’s emergency calls answered in the Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service headquarters at Hinchingbrooke.

The FBU has opposed the plans from the start, and has vowed to support its members in avoiding job losses when Suffolk staff transfer to Cambridgeshire.

Adrian Clarke, FBU regional secretary, said that while Suffolk’s control room currently contained 23 staff, only eight extra jobs would be created at the combined control room, meaning that 15 jobs would be at risk.

Staff from both forces would be pooled, with the jobs and redundancies divided between them.

Mr Clarke will meet staff at the Huntingdon control room today (Wednesday) to discuss the plans and find out their concerns.

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The full details of the transfer will be established by a project board, which will be overseen by David Worsley, also the head of the scrapped regional control centre project at Waterbeach.

Mr Clarke is hopeful that the FBU will be part of that team, to defend the best interests of its members, but played down the possibility of balloting for strike action.

“That’s obviously a last resort, and is triggered by the compulsory redundancy of any of our members, but we cannot second guess the result of any ballot,” he said.

“We hope to be on the project team not to signal our approval of the plans, but to put the case for our members at every available opportunity.

“The message I will be passing on to our members is that this far from a done deal in any way, shape or form.”

Mr Clarke said that there were still many significant issues that needed to be ironed out by the project board, including the exact terms of the transfer of staff, and cited the 8-5 vote result as proof that the idea was not universally welcomed.

Cambridgeshire Liberal Democrat councillors opposed the plans, claiming their Conservative and independent counterparts had abdicated responsibility by backing the plans without seeing them in sufficient detail.

Nigel Bell, “There have been no proper costings and no breakdown of how the savings will be achieved. We are particularly worried about losing skilled staff and the potential cost of redundancies.”

Graham Stagg, chief fire officer with Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service, defended the proposals for the combined control room, and said it would benefit both services with greater resilience, shared technology and significant cost savings.

Mr Stagg added: “The agreement in principle allows us to continue our discussions with Suffolk to pursue the partnership.

“Staff in both control rooms currently provide a first class, professional and caring service to the people of Cambridgeshire and Suffolk, and we are confident that we can continue to deliver this service as one combined team based in Cambridgeshire.”