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Privatisation of the London Control Centre

By Navin Shah AM

The rushed privatisation of the London Fire Brigade’s Control Centre is appalling. Chairman of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority, Brian Coleman is dismantling the service and functions of the London Fire Brigade, bit by bit at a terrifyingly quick pace.

The Fire Control Centre for London is operated by highly trained and efficient staff, who believe in what they do and have been horrified by this drive towards privatisation for privatisation’s sake. They have great knowledge and expertise and are faultless in their dedication to their extremely difficult job.

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The reason they, and I, are deeply unhappy about the privatisation of their place of work is that it is a purely political move. The proposals put forward by the Conservative Chair offer no real economic savings, efficiencies or effectiveness. They are motivated purely by an ideological Tory agenda. Indeed, the control centre is regularly exceeding its performance targets.

And how will these changes affect Londoners? I have concerns whether this is in the public interest and how this might affect public safety. During the London Riots in August this year, staff at the 999 Control Centre dealt with over 4,000 calls and dedicated staff volunteered to continue working. Will that still be the case when staff have been sold off to a private company? The sense of public service felt by these staff members will be shattered if Coleman’s plans are bulldozed through.

London's fire control centre is responsible for organising the response to major disasters. Since it opened in 2003, the mainly female staff members have talked callers through life threatening situations and should be applauded for their cool-headedness and bravery. But they are not.

Instead, they are being demoralised by the changes to their jobs and workplace, which are happening at break-neck speed.

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14th December 2011