Fire control centres scheme slammed
A programme to replace a discredited scheme aimed at replacing fire control centres has already slipped, and savings are less than predicted, a committee of MPs has found.
The Public Accounts Committee heaped more criticism on to a project originally drawn up to build new control centres across England.
The original FiReControl project, announced by the previous Labour government, was one of the worst cases of project failure the committee had seen, wasting at least £482 million of taxpayers' money, said the report.
The project was cancelled at the end of 2010, but the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has still not resolved how it will use the facilities and buildings which had been constructed, said the report.
The original aim was to replace control rooms in 46 local fire and rescue authorities, with a network of nine regional centres using a national computer system.
The DCLG made £81 million available to support improvements in control rooms, but the new programme has already slipped by three months and projected savings are £2 million less than originally predicted, said the report. Seven of the 22 projects are running late, with two now a year behind schedule.
Labour MP Margaret Hodge, who chairs the committee, said: "Three years after the project was cancelled, the DCLG still hasn't decided what it is going to do with many of the specially designed, high-specification facilities and buildings which had been built. Four of the nine regional control centres are still empty and look likely to remain so.
"Seven of the 22 projects are reportedly running late and two have been delayed by 12 months. We are therefore sceptical that projected savings, benefits and timescales will be achieved. Relying on multiple local projects risks value for money. We are not confident that local teams have the right IT and procurement skills to get good deals from suppliers and to monitor contracts effectively.
"There is a risk that the DCLG has swung from an overly prescriptive national approach to one that does not provide enough national oversight and co-ordination and fails to meet national needs or achieve economies of scale."
Four of the nine planned regional centres are still empty and the prospects of finding new tenants "do not look good", with "significant" costs remaining, said the MPs.