Fire control room 'must not move to Bridgend'

South Wales Guardian: FIREFIGHT: Councillors are united in their opposition to plans to move the control room. FIREFIGHT: Councillors are united in their opposition to plans to move the control room.

A NOTICE of Motion calling on Mid and West Fire Authority to reconsider its plans to relocate the control room at Llangynnor to Bridgend received unanimous cross-party support from Carmarthenshire county councillors last week.

Plaid member Alun Lenny had expressed concerns over the plan to move the control room outside its operational area which was said to have been drawn-up as a cost-cutting move.

"The control centre, which deals with 999 calls, is located on the outskirts of Carmarthen," he said. "The Brigade recognises that this arrangement “facilitates easier communication and liaison during major and complex emergencies.

"It will share a brand new facility with South Wales Police and the South Wales Fire service, but it’s worth noting that Dyfed-Powys police is not involved in this arrangement.

"The new centre in Bridgend will cost million of pounds to set-up, with the MAWWFRS contributing a substantial share.

"The Mid and West Wales Fire Service is funded by the six county councils to the tune of £46 million this year – of which Carmarthenshire contributes £9m.

"You’d think that the Fire Service would at least consult with the funding authorities before making such a major decision: a decision which would take up to 35 well-paid jobs out of our county town, and – more importantly – one which raises concerns about public safety. "

Cllr Lenny also felt the proposal conflicted with the Authority’s Vision and Values aim to build confidence within the local community.

"How can people have confidence in a service which makes such important strategic decisions behind closed doors, without even bothering to consult the public – their customers?" he asked.

"One wonders how rigorously the Fire Authority discussed the Public Interest Test under Schedule 12A of the 1972 Act before going into camera to decide on this in secret.

"As a result, the matter was a done deal before we even heard about it.

Cllr Lenny added there were also fears that Bridgend-based control room staff would be unfamiliar with Welsh place names and their locations.

"If – God forbid – if your home was on fire, or if you were trapped in a crashed car, would you prefer to stake your life on the local knowledge of a person at the call control centre in Llangunnor or the satellite link to a centre in Bridgend?

Carmarthenshire Labour Fire Authority Member Calum Higgins also spoke in favour of a rethink.

“ Carmarthenshire’s Labour councillors back the retention of the local control room, and have serious questions about the process followed in making the decision," he said.

" Councillors on the Authority were called to an extraordinary meeting on an unrelated matter, and the control room decision was tagged on to the agenda with short notice.

"Councillors were given very little time to read the hefty business document that made up the report on a joint control centre in Bridgend and the report was on the agenda to be ‘noted’.

"From my conversations with colleagues it seems that many councillors of all parties feel that this decision was rushed, and should be re-visited."

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