Proposal made to merge Thames Valley's fire control rooms

Oxfordshire's Deputy Chief Fire Officer Colin Thomas Deputy Chief Fire Officer Colin Thomas says a merged control room would improve technology

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Emergency calls to the fire brigade could be answered in a centralised control room for the Thames Valley under new proposals.

Currently control rooms are based in all three counties of Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire.

An Oxfordshire fire chief says a merger would give more capacity to cope with major incidents.

However, the Fire Brigade Union (FBU) says people with local knowledge should answer emergency calls.

Each of the three fire authorities in the Thames Valley will be able to apply for £1.8m of government grants for improvements to their control services.

Oxfordshire's Deputy Chief Fire Officer Colin Thomas said "financial savings" were not the "raison d'être" for the move, but admitted there would be an effect on jobs.

Around 80 people in total work at the three control centres at the moment.

No decision will be taken until the New Year.

The plan comes after the government abandoned a seven-year project to create a single south east England control centre.

The National Audit Office (NAO) concluded in July that £469m had been wasted on the project

'Every second counts'

Rachel Dobson, spokeswoman for the FBU, said: "If the control room is taken out of Oxfordshire, the public will be dealing with call-takers unfamiliar with the area and in life-and-death situations every second counts."

Officers from each of the Thames Valley fire and rescue services took part in a meeting with the Department for Communities and Local Government to discuss their plans to update or replace their control rooms on Monday.

The outcome of this meeting will be reported on 19 September.

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