It looks as though the canvassing for votes and ‘brownie points’ leading up to the local elections in May has already started and Christmas is only just over! Coun Light’s pontifications about the fire service control room centralisation being cancelled can be placed alongside the ‘free school’ fiasco.
Regarding the centralisation of control rooms, I can add some personal experience to this subject. As a professionally qualified electrical engineer I had the task of centralising three electricity distribution control rooms and seven customer fault reporting centres into one supercentre and, as an independent consultant, the establishment of one of the first such centres in Hyderabad in India.
The UK centralisation in which I was involved was a multi-million scheme resulting directly from the Thatcher Tory government’s privatisation of the electricity supply industry. The regulatory regime imposed meant that there was no alternative other than to centralise because of the reduction in staff numbers and financial benefits which could be realised.
I know that part of this fire service centralisation would be a cost benefit analysis which would indicate massive efficiency improvements as well as extra flexibility for the fire service scheme. If there is any criticism to make it can only be in the implementation and control of such a scheme.
The fire service senior management should shoulder the blame for this as there must have been someone given the overall responsibility for both budget and technical delivery performance. If I had made such a mess I would have been quite rightly blamed for it and sacked, and it certainly would not have been the fault of the main company board who authorised the finance. Clearly Coun Light either closes his eyes to this fact or does not have the slightest idea of how such contracts need to be managed.
He even quotes fire service staff to support his criticism who probably have a vested interest in order to defray criticism of themselves as being the ones who are to blame for not managing the scheme effectively and ensuring the contractor employed for the scheme’s provision fulfilled the contractual requirements for the buildings and technology provided.
I am afraid that Coun Light is blessed with the attributes of all his government colleagues which can be summed up in the words of the old saw (saying) “He knows the cost of everything and the VALUE of nothing.”
When this Con-Lib coalition gets round to privatising the fire service, the first thing the companies will do will be to say thank you very much for the £400m investment then get on with centralising the control centres.
The publicity regarding shift patterns shows the ‘old Spanish customs’ mentality. The centralisation could produce the efficiencies available and would reap benefits in both cost and effectiveness for us, the tax-payers, if done now, but will only swell the coffers of the private companies involved in the future.
I will put my name forward now to get on that gravy train.