Plans for a joint Control Centre for Royal Berkshire and Oxfordshire fire and rescue services have been approved. Oxfordshire County Council Cabinet and Royal Berkshire Fire Authority gave the go ahead for the Thames Valley Fire Control Service (TVFCS) at separate meetings held this week.
In common with fire and rescue services throughout the UK, Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service (RBFRS) and Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service (OFRS) have been considering the future of their control rooms following the end of the national FiReControl project in 2010. Since the FiReControl project came to an end, RBFRS and OFRS have been working in partnership on plans for the TVFCS. Similarly, Cambridgeshire, Buckinghamshire and Suffolk have moved ahead with plans to share a control room between the three counties, the Isle of Wight are already successfully sharing a Control room with Surrey, and Cumbria are already sharing with Cheshire before moving in to a wider joint North West Control room, along with Lancashire and Greater Manchester.
The TVFCS is anticipated to go live in April 2014.
The TVFCS' primary control will be located at RBFRS' new headquarters in Calcot, near Reading, which will include purpose-built accommodation for the new joint control, including improved security measures.
Another geographically remote fire and rescue service will be used to ensure an uninterrupted service in the event of unusually high levels of calls, such as those as experienced during the flooding in 2007. A non-staffed secondary control room will also be maintained, at OFRS' current facility in Kidlington, to further strengthen resilience.
The TVFCS is projected to save £659,000 per year between the two fire and rescue services, with £229,000 per year of this reinvested in system maintenance and future replacement costs. Over the 15-year life of the agreement it will save almost £10m.
RBFRS and OFRS currently employ 52 control staff between them but in future it is anticipated that approximately 30 staff will be needed in the TVFCS. Following the decision to proceed with the TVFCS, work can now begin on detailed staffing models and a full HR staff consultation process will be conducted at the appropriate time. Both fire and rescue services are committed to supporting their staff throughout the change process.
RBFRS Chief Fire Officer, Iain Cox, said: "Individual control rooms have become increasingly unsustainable due to falling incident numbers, reflecting our success in fire prevention. I am delighted that the decision has been made to move forward with the TVFCS and I am confident that it will provide an improved, more resilient and cost-effective service for the people of Berkshire and Oxfordshire.
"However, I am acutely aware of the impact that this news will have on both RBFRS and OFRS control staff, who have already experienced a lengthy period of uncertainty while the national FiReControl project was underway. My colleagues in Oxfordshire and I are committed to supporting our staff through this process and will do everything we can to make the transition to the TVFCS as smooth as possible."
OFRS Chief Fire Officer, Dave Etheridge, said: "Once the government's national project to create regional control rooms came to an end, fire and rescue services around the country had decisions to make about future arrangements. Many are already making similar moves to share. We are in the mainstream of thinking across the UK.
"I have every confidence that a joint control room in Calcot would expertly serve both Royal Berkshire's and our needs here in Oxfordshire. It will be staffed by professional experienced staff from both Oxfordshire and Berkshire, linking the services in a seamless way."
Posted July 19th, 2012 at 1420 by Andrew. Comment by emailing email@example.com