Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire and Suffolk fire controls merge

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A joint emergency control centre is planned for fire services in Suffolk, Buckinghamshire and Cambridgeshire.

The centre would be established at Cambridgeshire Fire Service's headquarters in Huntingdon.

Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes Fire Authority rejected a possible partnership with Royal Berkshire and Oxfordshire fire and rescue services.

Berkshire's deputy fire officer Olaf Baars called the decision "a major blow".

He added: "We do not fully understand the rationale for the decision. Whilst this decision is a major blow to our plans, we hope to work with Oxfordshire to see if anything can be salvaged from these proposals.

'Save £500,000'

"However, a Thames Valley Control centre was just one of a number of options that had been considered."

A Buckinghamshire Fire Authority spokesman said it believed a link with Suffolk and Cambridgeshire would offer the best combination of service, value and readiness.

The spokesman said merging the fire control centres would save £500,000 a year.

Buckinghamshire's fire control room in Aylesbury is set to close in the next 18 months as a result.

The plan follows the cancellation of a government project, called FiReControl, which would have replaced the 46 fire service control rooms in England with nine regional centres.

This would have seen Buckingham joining a group covering the south east.

Relocation or redundancy

Buckinghamshire Fire Authority chairman David Rowlands said: "Following the previous government's disastrous handling of the FiReControl project, it was inevitable that some form of rationalisation of fire controls would result.

"We carefully considered a range of options, including a partnership with our close partners in the Thames Valley, outsourcing to London Fire Brigade or remaining as a standalone control serving only Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes.

"In the end, we opted for what we felt would deliver the best result at lower cost to our taxpayers."

Chief Fire Officer Mark Jones said: "Traditionally, we have worked closely with our neighbours in Royal Berkshire and Oxfordshire, and that close interaction will continue."

Cambridgeshire's assistant chief fire officer, Neil Newberry, said: "A business case will now be developed to see if the partnership would work in practice and what level of savings the merger will ultimately result in.

"Providing the merger is approved by both fire authorities and agreed to be both efficient and resilient for members of the public, this will be planned for 2013."

The 24 staff who work in Buckinghamshire will be offered the opportunity to relocate or take redundancy.

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