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Regional Control Centres

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What’s the feeling on this page with regards to the failed regional control centres? I understand a lot of frustration due to the sheer amount of money they are costing however is it a project most would like to make a comeback? I understand North West went solo with theirs (without Merseyside)… how are they coping? My brigades centre is still sat empty at Castle Donington I believe and although Notts and Derbs went together, there’s still the likes of Lincs on their own. 

I don’t know the ins and outs as I joined the brigade in 2015 so it was before my time however I hope this is a thread that can get a lot of comments so I can understand it better.

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The Govt went into this badly mishandled project in a huge rush to save money and improve efficiency without doing any research into whether true savings would occur

There was next to no consultation as a decision was made that few staff must mean savings

There was no joined up thinking and the buildings were designed and construction started before the IT boffins had laid out their requirements 

As a result, there was insufficient space for the IT hardware including power supplies and ventilation.  In short, the IT didn't fit

The IT didn't work and Govt project managers changed frequently and few had IT experience.  The IT boffins were on a day rate. Many knew the IT was doomed but kept  this from project managers to keep the project live and cash rolling in

The last project manager was a Cabinet Office civil service manager in his 20s who had no IT or construction project management experience.  He was at the wheel when the project collapsed

Worst still, in their hast to get regional controls up and running, the Govt failed to ask any FRS if they wanted them and didn't oblige any fire service to commit to them once ready

Its been a cock up of significant proportions - and another to add to the list of Govt  IT projects to fail

Look up on Hansard the Public Affairs Finance Committe chaired by the brilliant Margaret Hodge MP (now in the Lords). Its a painful read of incompetence  and greed 

They should be buried and forgotten about 

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This is one of those projects that in theory was a ‘good idea’ but in practice was a complete and astronomically expensive disaster that we are still dealing with the fall out from to this day. 

So, let’s go back in time. There was a time when each Fire Brigade had its own dedicated Control, an integral part of that FRS, staffed by local people who knew the service, its Ops staff, it’s PDAs and procedures inside out, but more importantly, knew the local areas inside out too; towns, roads, streets, land marks, risks, the whole nine yards which all helped to ensure the overall response model worked seamlessly. 

Admittedly, this ‘model’ was at first seemingly replicated in each of the then 50 odd FRSs so to the uninitiated, Labour Government and it’s sycophantic ‘yes’ men (same thing really), there was too much ‘duplication of tasks’ and it was just begging to be ‘modernised’ and ‘improved’ so it could be more ‘efficient’ (cheaper) - just like the NHS and Court IT systems projects Labour oversaw that had been proven to have delivered efficiency’s and been runaway success stories too. (Yes that’s sarcasm).

Due to the plan for just 9 Regional Control Centres, this would mean massive disruption to the status quo with highly experienced staff either relocating themselves and their families, or leaving altogether only to be replaced with new staff on different Ts and Cs. But that didn’t matter - it would be a totally new role, the need for vital local knowledge wouldn’t be there due to the way the systems were being designed and the role would be more of a Dispatcher following pre programmed algorithms and Action Cards with almost responsibility and decision making based on judgment allowed. The only personal involvement with the system would be pressing buttons to mobilise after the system had identified the closest and most appropriate asset - because the designers knew better than to go with a system that had worked superbly for nearly a century by then.

So where did it all go wrong? Well for a start, ‘we know best’ arrogance and lots of it. Labour Government mandarins with absolutely no prior experience or knowledge of what the sector does directed from the outset that this project wouldn’t fail, regardless and refused to listen to any criticism or suggestions. The tender winner for providing all the hardware and software, EADS (Thales), was/is a military specialist contractor and was also in no mood to listen to reason and sector specific experience and totally underestimated the complexity of what was needed. When the mobilising software was being written despite plenty of ‘off the shelf’ products that could be fine tweaked to suit a buying FRS, even with a creation of the project that still lives with us now, national callsigns being introduced to aid uniformity, it was soon found that equipment which was on a pump in one county, differed greatly with that of another, never mind how the pump was crewed and all the factors associated with that - WT or RDS/On Call, levels of training etc. It was this lack of standardisation which was a major stumbling block, read impossible to get over, due to all the variables with what is our most basic and standard response delivery resource.

Trying to configure how to mobilise specials  with even more variables proved impossible too. This was discovered well into the project and after millions had already been spent despite people suggesting this would be an issue very early on, but as mentioned ‘we know best’ arrogance was the order of the day and between the mandarins and the contractor they refused to listen. So the software and system to get fire engines to an address was too complex to write and this is for a company who’s day job is to provide hardware and software to aviation and defence on a national level!

The buildings themselves were another story, constructed with PFI money nobody would then have any control over and would prove to be another financial disaster that are still being paid for, naturally - they are ultimately so over engineered they are bomb proof - literally. Everything has triple redundancy in case of one system failure similar to a Trident submarine, power, comms etc. and can withstand a targeted attack (by whom I’m not sure). Great in theory, but it’s the Fire Brigade, not NORAD. Even GMP have a far more modest Control set up than the FiReControl RCC’s. And with over engineering cones increased costs.

There are still some RCCs that have stood empty since being competed yet are being paid for annually - it’s a project that Labour would rather forget they had anything to do with.

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Hard to follow two excellent posts on the shambles, but if you want something to sum it up, John Prescott, who initiated it, still tried to defend it after the damning report from the Public Affairs Committee. :swear:

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Don’t forget that because they believed they were having RCCs foisted upon them, FRSs were understandably reluctant to invest in their control functions so they tried to make IT systems run on well beyond the dates at when they should have been upgraded or replaced.  Then suddenly the by now much delayed RCCs were no more and there was a very urgent need to replace those creaking IT systems and no time to do it properly.  Decisions were rushed, unproven systems were purchased, control functions were restructured and many staff left.  The problems caused by RCCs certainly didn’t end when the plug was pulled, the legacy is still with us now.

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