In today’s news, we found out the final minimum bill for the disastrous regional control centre project for the fire and rescue services – £469 million. In an utterly botched attempt to centralise the country’s fire and rescue control systems from 46 smaller control rooms into nine regional centres, the only success was that the buildings were actually constructed. Unfortunately, eight of the nine now sit empty, costing 4m per year to maintain and of little use to anyone else.
The FireControl project has all the hallmarks of large public projects of recent times. Poorly visualised, inadequate communication, complete lack of budgetary control and most significantly, zero accountability. Between 2004 and 2010, half a billion pounds of public money has been wasted on nine buildings and very little else. According to the Public Accounts Committee report, the project was “flawed from the outset”, a “comprehensive failure” and “one of the worst wastes of public money for many years”. The centres were supposed to be state-of-the art but the IT system was “simply never delivered”.
Of course, the government blames Labour and the unions say “told you so” but the reality is that these complete failures and lack of project control occur under all governments and the unions are opposed to any change which isn’t an increase in pay or benefits. As always, the blame will lie with no-one. Everyone involved will move to a different department and carry on as normal. At least £469 million has been wasted when it could have been put to much better use. The country probably even borrowed the money and we are now paying interest on it.