Fire control room moves 72 miles

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LACK of local knowledge will not be allowed to put lives at risk following the move of Suffolk’s fire control centre 72 miles this week to merge with Cambridgeshire at a new base in Huntingdon.

The assurance was given by Mark Sanderson, assistant chief fire officer for Suffolk fire and rescue service, who admitted that retaining local knowledge had been a key consideration within the merger, which would bring annual savings of £400,000 for each authority.

Eighteen people, many with more than 20 years’ service, will lose their jobs in the Ipswich control two weeks before Christmas, six are transferring to Huntingdon with offers of travel or home relocation packages, with the Government asked to meet redundancy costs of £500,000.

Mr Sanderson said merger savings would help it meet Government-dictated reduced spending levels and keep ‘frontline’ services, retaining every fire station and appliance.

Suffolk Fire Brigades Union chairman Andy Vingoe described the merger as ‘a cost-cutting exercise’ and fears more cuts in both counties which could endanger the public.

Mr Sanderson said new technology would help spot place name issues, there would be a Suffolk person on each Huntingdon shift and crews’ local knowledge would be vital. Milton Keynes and Buckinghamshire are now interested in using the control but Mr Sanderson said this must not impact on Suffolk safety.