New joint fire HQ for Derbyshire and Notts in bid to save cash

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A new joint fire control room covering Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire is to be set up this year and would see staff working in a purpose-built centre in a bid to save vital funds.

Staff currently based in Nottingham would have to commute to Derby – and in the event of any technical issues affecting Derby, staff from there would have to temporarily transfer to Leicestershire fire’s control room to handle emergency calls.

The joint control scheme is one of the flagship money-savers in Derbyshire fire service’s budget.

It is understood to be too early to say if the move will result in job losses.

At a meeting, Derbyshire fire approved a 1.98 per cent rise in its council tax precept – opting to go against officer advice of a 2.98 per cent hike.

The rise will see Band D homeowners paying £1.48 extra a year – £76.22.

Both fire services have had to use money from their rainy-day reserves to reach a balanced budget for 2019-2020.

Derbyshire fire had to use £800,000 and Nottinghamshire, £1.24 million.

In 2020, Derbyshire is forecasting a deficit of £1.35 million and Nottinghamshire, £798,000.

It has now been revealed that the venture, agreed in behind closed doors in December, is set to save each service £350,000 per year.

Derbyshire fire is set to lead on the project, which could cost up to £430,000 to set up.

Most of the costs for the scheme will come from Derbyshire fire’s reserves.

The new control centre would be based at Ascot Drive fire station in Derby – near where a new £9.5 million police station is planned.

It would open this summer.

Derbyshire’s police and fire services already have a joint headquarters at Ripley, which opened in 2016.

Meanwhile, Nottinghamshire’s fire and police services also signed off plans for a joint £18.5 million HQ this month.

Fire control room staff handle calls for more than just blazes. They also handle the response to car crashes and chemical spills.

This month the two forces have approved a further spend of £90,000 to make alterations to Ascot Drive to prepare for the new control room – they will split the cost between them.

Extensive details of the project have come out in Leicestershire fire papers, which has a “tri-force” agreement to cooperate with Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire. It worries that it could end up fielding emergency calls for three counties if systems at Ascot Drive fail.

The current “fail back” system kicks in when one control room receives an overwhelming amount of calls, with excess calls transferred over to one of the other tri-force services.

Leicestershire has been left out of the joint control room plan due to the need of Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire fire to “progress without delay”.

In a report published by Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service, Richard Calder, area manager for tri-force control, wrote: “It was our initial understanding that Leicestershire FRS would handle all calls for all three services in the event of the joint control facility in Derbyshire FRS becoming unavailable.

“If this occurred, staff from the control room in Derbyshire would physically transfer to vacant control positions in Leicestershire FRS until their control room became available again.

“This raised a concern that during the transfer period, Leicestershire control room would handle calls and mobilise resources for all three services with only four staff available.

“Leicestershire has now been assured by the project team in Derbyshire FRS that our control room would not be required to assume responsibility for handling fire calls for all three services until the additional staff had transferred from Derbyshire and were established in our control room.”

Mr Calder says that there is not enough space at Leicestershire’s facility for control room staff from all three counties.

It has four members of staff operating its call room at any one time, with space for seven – so three staff from the joint Derbyshire control room could fit.

However, it is thought the joint control room in Derbyshire would be run by five members of staff.

Mr Calder says Leicestershire’s control room could fit two extra work stations, but this could be costly.

He is hoping that some of Nottinghamshire’s equipment can be salvaged to use in Leicestershire in case it is needed.