A LEADING Oxfordshire firefighter has called for a swift decision from the Government over the future of regional fire centres.

Nine new regional control centres have been built in England as part of a £423m plan to regionalise the service, but the project, known as FiReControl, is being reviewed by the Government due to the cost.

Colin Thomas, deputy chief fire officer for Oxfordshire Fire Service, said fire chiefs had “reservations” about the switch to regional centres from 46 local centres and would not allow the move locally if it jeopardised public safety in any way.

He said Oxfordshire County Council has continued to invest in the control centre in Kidlington, and added: “It is difficult to see precisely what is going on and we would like clarity on this as soon as possible.

“Dave Etheridge, the chief fire officer, and Oxfordshire County Council will not allow the transfer of our call handling to Fareham in Hampshire unless it meets our requirements and expectations and is reliable and robust and provides the quality of service we are looking for.”

Mr Thomas said the expected start date for the switchover was now 2013 at the earliest, not 2011 as previously planned.

Steve Allen, chairman of the Fire Brigades Union in Oxfordshire, said: “The FBU has said all along that the regionalisation of control rooms was badly conceived and implemented, and the control staff in Kidlington remain an essential part of our machinery.”