PLANS to axe Lancashire’s emergency fire control room and replace it with a regional call-handling centre have been delayed.
The £380million proposals, which have been condemned by firefighters, will see Lancashire’s Broughton control centre make way for a North West operation at Warrington.
The Government has now admitted that the Whitehall-backed plans are now at least nine months behind schedule, and could slip further behind, because of IT problems.
There are fears that the delays could also increase the cost of the project.
Critic Julia Goldsworthy, Lib Dem communities spokesman, said: “This supposed cost-cutting measure is behind schedule and the budget is rising fast.
“Now that the Government has conceded the Fire Control Centres will not open on time, shouldn’t they also admit that the project was doomed from the start?
“Closing local control centres will not improve fire safety and it now looks like it’s not going to save money either.”
Under the scheme, every local control room across the country would be shut and replaced by one of eight regional call centres.
The firefighters’ union has said the plan would damage the brigade’s chances of reaching 999 calls promptly due to a lack of local knowledge among operators.
Communities and local government minister Sadiq Khan blamed the delays on “difficulties with the ICT”.
The full system will now be in place by spring 2012, with the first three regional centres in the North East, East Midlands and South West going live in summer 2010 – nine months later than expected.
Mr Khan indicated the date for the full system going live could slip further, saying that final deadlines are dependent on the completion of the earlier stages of the scheme.
FBU regional secretary Kevin Brown said: “We are telling the Government not just to change course, but to change its whole approach.”