The London Fire Brigade (LFB) is to update its control centre IT systems at an estimated cost of up to £248m. The new system will replace the functionality originally intended to be delivered through the government's failed FireControl project.
The £469m FireControl programme was intended to reduce the number of fire service control rooms across the UK from 46 to nine. The LFB is now seeking IT services for control and mobilising systems as well as staff support functions, which it estimates will cost between £17.5m to £248m over 10-14 years. The tender notice issued for the procurement says the system could be shared with three other fire services, in Lincolnshire, Buckinghamshire and Berkshire.
John Anthony, regional project director at the LFB, said: "If FireControl had gone ahead we would not be replacing our system, which will come to the end of its life by 2014. The new system will have features that FireControl intended to deliver, such as automatic vehicle location.
"Our Motorola mobilising system at the moment is still fairly modern and serves us well, as proved over last couple of weeks [with the riots]. It's just coming to a natural lifecycle."
The estimated budget also includes staff costs of 120 people operating the control centre over 10 years, with the potential of a four-year extension and with inflation also taken into account, says Anthony.
"When all those calculations are factored in there should be no additional costs to the force over this period," he said.
The LFB will be operating out of the purpose-built FireControl site from November this year with its existing control system - but only thanks to a government subsidy.
There will be a rent-free period from the go-live date that will last for a period of time equivalent to the relocation costs incurred. After the rent-free period, the Department for Communities and Local Government will fund 66% of the rent, with the fire brigade paying the remaining £878,205 per year.
The LFB is so far the only fire brigade to use any of the nine FireControl buildings for their original purpose. The government is locked into spending £342m on rent for the empty premises.
"I don't think this project is more ambitious about FireControl, as that involved co-ordinating 46 different brigades. This is about replacing an existing system on a like-for-like basis, with a few enhancements such as additional resilience and support, auto vehicle location, and real-time data - enabling us to send our nearest resource to a fire. Also this is something that our fire brigade wants and that we are in control of, as opposed to being centrally imposed," said Anthony.
The fire brigade hopes to have a new system in place by the end of 2013.