Sussex

Surrey Fire and Rescue Service control room merger criticised

Fire generic Image copyright Eddie Mitchell
Image caption The Fire Brigades Union say a control room merger has inflicted "unacceptable" levels of risk on the public and employees

A fire service's control room merger has "inflicted unacceptable and unnecessary levels of risk on the public and employees", a union said.

Surrey Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) has overseen 999 calls for the West Sussex service since December 2019.

But the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) claims staff are struggling to cope with the added workload of 9,000 extra calls per year.

SFRS "strongly refutes" the claims and "teething" issues have been resolved.

West Sussex announced the roll out of a new 999 combined control room in December.

'Safety critical notice'

At the time, West Sussex County Council said the new system would bring many benefits including "greater functionality for staff" and "better value for money" for both the West Sussex and Surrey brigades.

However, the FBU claims Surrey control staff have not been trained sufficiently to carry out their role on behalf of West Sussex.

The union also says there have been multiple technical failures of IT systems, bouts of severe understaffing and crews being sent to incidents from the wrong locations, causing delays in attendance.

The Surrey branch of the FBU has presented Surrey Fire and Rescue Service with a "safety critical notice" around its control room operations.

SFRS said no staff had reported suffering from stress-related illness and there were no reports of delays to response times as a result of the new way of working.

The criticism from the union comes on the day East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service rubberstamped plans to also merge their control with Surrey.

Members of the East Sussex Fire Authority met to discuss the future of the service's control centre service and decided to follow in the same steps as West Sussex.

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