The 2004 plan to open nine regional fire control centres around the country in is still costing the taxpayer £7.6m a year. We've written about them before but they're back in the news again as an investigation by BBC Somerset has revealed that empty fire-fighting headquarters in Taunton, Castle Donington, Cambridge and Wakefield are racking up costs year on year, despite the scheme being scrapped in 2010.
"We inherited a poorly conceived and badly delivered top-down programme to create regional fire control rooms," says a Government minister. "To avoid further taxpayers' money being wasted, the project was terminated after it repeatedly ran over budget and behind schedule." But the annual charges for rent, utilities and facility management are costing on average £1.9m for the remaining empty centres.
The Department of Communities and Local Government is trying to reduce the on-going maintenance costs through renegotiating local service contracts, but Freedom of Information requests have revealed that these costs are now greater than they were when the doomed centres were opened. Efforts have been made to market the centres for other purposes, but little interest has been shown far, especially in Taunton.
Each of the vacant buildings still contains expensive equipment, not all of it vital to fire-fighting—including £6,000 espresso machines!
Tim Newark, South West TaxPayers’ Alliance