Despite being scrapped in 2010, the FiReControl project to establish nine regional fire control centres continues to be a millstone around taxpayers' necks. The Public Accounts Committee report released yesterday highlights that FiReControl has wasted at least £482 million of taxpayers’ money and still racked by problems. Margaret Hodge MP, the committee’s chair, has described it as “one of the worst cases of project failure we have seen.”
The Chair of the Public Accounts Committee made clear in the report that the “DCLG (Department for Communities and Local Government) still hasn’t decided what it is going to do with many of the specially designed, high-specification facilities and builds” and that “four out of the nine regional control centres are still empty and look likely to remain so.”
Rushed, not wanted by the fire and rescue services from the start, littered with badly negotiated contracts and rents way over the market rate - FiReControl is the leading example of civil servant and ministerial bungling.
In an attempt to resolve this continuing problem, DCLG has decided to spend another £82 million to change the project into 22 separate, locally-lead projects.
But unfortunately, this looks set to create another set of problems with the project. Ms Hodge warned that “relying on multiple local projects risks value for money.” Echoing the project’s past issues, she states that the committee is “not confident that local teams have the right IT and procurement skills to get good deals from suppliers and to monitor contracts effectively.”
The report points out that even now this new approach is behind schedule, with two local projects delayed by 12 months and seven also running late. The committee has also stated it is sceptical that project savings and benefits will be achieved.
This increased spending, in addition to the £482 million at least already wasted, brings the total cost of FiReControl project since it began in 2004 to at least £564 million. Yet with no end in sight, taxpayers continue to fund this project nine years after it started and three years after it was supposedly scrapped.