Hethersett to remain as fire control base

Norfolk's fire control room centre is to stay in Hethersett after ministers pulled the plug on a controversial decision to shift it to Cambridgeshire.

Fire minister Bob Neill announced the government was scrapping the �423m project to replace 46 control centres in England with nine new sites, which has been hit by a series of delays and increased costs after striking a confidential compensation deal with contractors.

The news means that a proposed new �23m control centre at Waterbeach, near Cambridge, which was set to open next year and has been sitting empty at a cost to taxpayers of �200,000 a month, will now never see action - though there are suggestions that Cambridgeshire and Suffolk, which are to press ahead with merger plans, could yet move into the new facility.

In Norfolk fire chiefs said that the county will not be affected because of a decision to continue spending on up to the minute technology.

Pete Greeves, Norfolk FBU chairman said the decision was long overdue. 'There's been too much money spent on a project, which we said from the start would never work,' Mr Greeves said. 'It's a shame they never invested that money in the fire service instead of chucking it down the drain, because we wouldn't be in half as much trouble as we are now.'

Norwich South MP Simon Wright also backed the decision.

'I have been lobbied by local members of the FBU and staff who work in the Norfolk Control Centre who were very concerned about the impact that this project,' Mr Wright said. 'Not only would jobs have been lost locally but we would have seen people dealing with calls from the public without any of the benefits of local knowledge. Like so many of Labour's grand IT projects the move to regional control centres suffered from spiralling costs while it took services away from local people.'

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Harry Humphrey, county council cabinet member for fire and safety, said: 'It hasn't come as a complete surprise, it's been so delayed and overpriced. As far as Norfolk is concerned we have got a very good system and one of the best control rooms in the country.'

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