Isle of Wight Council have been criticised for arranging a visit to Surrey Fire and Rescue Service’s control room in Reigate. Five IW Councillors made a trip last week to be shown the equipment in the Surrey control room that will be take all emergency 999 fire calls on the IW following the decision to close the Island’s own control room with the loss of up to twelve jobs and the important local knowledge that is needed to provide a safety critical service to Island residents, businesses and visitors.
The Fire Brigades Union is bemused that the visit has taken place after the decision to close the Island’s control in Newport has already been taken and why Councillors have not been invited to visit their own control room in Newport to make a like for like comparison.
Ironically the visit took place in same week the government announced details of the money available for emergency fire control rooms to upgrade their equipment. In response to a consultation process following the collapse of the national FiReControl project Fire Minster, Bob Neill, announced that fire and rescues services can bid for up to £1.8million each to upgrade their control room function. The minister’s statement and report identify that ‘localism is key to improved resilience’.
Andy Cooper, Acting FBU Regional Control Representative, said: ‘It is deplorable that this visit has been arranged after the decision has been taken and that a similar visit to the Newport control has not been arranged. It sounds like some Councillors have fallen for the Surrey ‘sales pitch’ and have been dazzled by the technology. He added ‘I recommend that all Councillors arrange a visit to the Island’s control room to see its capabilities and how local knowledge is used at control room level to enhance the service given to Island communities’.
Paul Watts, FBU Regional Treasurer, said: ‘With central government funding now available to upgrade fire controls the opportunity exists for IWFRS to retain their own control and upgrade its specification’. He added ‘I strongly urge Councillors to fully investigate this new option and ditch plans to close the Island’s control room and retain jobs on the Island along with the vital local knowledge that IWFRS control staff use to protect Island communities’.