Cambridgeshire and Suffolk fire controls merge

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The UK's first joint emergency control centre has begun operating for fire services in Cambridgeshire and Suffolk.

The centre has been established at Cambridgeshire Fire Service's headquarters in Huntingdon.

It follows the cancellation of the government's Firecontrol project, which planned to replace 46 control rooms in England with nine regional centres.

If the merger proves successful, operators may take 999 calls from Buckinghamshire in the future.

Andy Vingoe, chairman of Suffolk Fire Brigades Union (FBU), described the merger as "a cost cutting exercise".

It is estimated the merger will save each service about £400,000 per year.

"Unfortunately the situation with the current economic climate means we are going to see more cuts both here and in Cambridgeshire," Mr Vingoe said.

"I can't think that will be anything but detrimental to the safety of the public."

'Responsive technology'

Mr Vingoe confirmed that of the 23 staff previously employed in the Suffolk control room, five would be moving to the new merged service in Huntingdon.

"Many people have chosen not to move to Cambridgeshire, understandably, so there have been a lot of job losses," he said.

However, the secretary of the Cambridgeshire FBU, Kevin Napier, said: "Some people have taken early retirement and some have chosen voluntary redundancy, but a number of staff are having to relocate or travel to the control room.

"We do feel that the union has come to the very best decision it could do for our members.

"We hope, as an emergency service [the public] will see very little difference. The technology is there to be responsive."

A spokesperson from Cambridgeshire Fire Service said: "[The merged service] offers a more resilient, cost-effective, but tried and tested mobilising system to the communities of Cambridgeshire and Suffolk, which has the capacity to be further enhanced in the future.

"The two services will continue working together to ensure the people of both counties receive a first class level of service."

Mark Sanderson, Suffolk's assistant fire officer, said the system would be reviewed to ensure it was "one of the best in the country... and that the people of Suffolk get a good service."

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