Following a meeting last week in London set up by Jenny Sleep, chaired by myself and attended by two senior Fire Brigade Union representatives, I would ask you to make every effort to write to your MP, Parish, Unitary, Borough and County councillors, your Chief Fire Officer, Chairman of your Fire Authority and local newspapers protesting at the regionalisation of Emergency Fire Controls as a safety issue affecting every single citizen of Great Britain.
In brief, the Government's proposals mean that 49 existing control centres will be replaced by 9 regional call centres. When dialling 999 we do not expect to be left dangling on the end of a telephone line waiting to be connected to an operator whilst being given initially 5 options and then when we have decided which option is applicable to our emergency then to be given 3 more options.
The existing 49 control centres possess abundant local knowledge. Regional call centres will not. Computers are but an aid and do crash. When call centres become too busy the overspill calls will be picked up elsewhere. An emergency in say the south east could be picked up by Scotland. Fatalities will occur through delays. Not only is there an increased risk to members of the public but every minute delay in handling a fire call could further risk the lives of firecrackers.
Apart from these risks, there will be a loss of local accountability and the loss of vital and pivotal local knowledge, expertise and highly qualified staff with significant job losses. There will be less resilience in the face of terrorist attacks (surely a target would be regional call centres). We can expect less control and more chaos.
Why should taxpayers pay more for less service?
In June 2004 the National Air Traffic Control System highlighted the temporary loss of a centralised emergency system increasing the risk to public safety. An £8million new control Police centre in Scotland has already experienced delays in handling incoming calls, notably from one policeman trying to phone in.
Remember that emergency calls to Fire Services are expected to be handled within 60 seconds. The police and ambulance services are expected to answer within 60 seconds and then on a graded system.
I hope shortly to let you all have a list of FBU regional representatives to whom you can write to send letters of support and to ask for copies of petition forms plus leaflets to distribute
A useful quote from Mr Peter Jones, Chief Fire Officer of Gloucestershire "WE MUST STOP THIS MADNESS AT THE HIGHEST LEVEL OF GOVERNMENT"
Please relay this e-mail to as many of your contacts as possible to gather support
Regards George West Midlands Against Regional Assemblies