Fire and rescue IT project branded a "complete failure"

Failed project suffered from weak oversight and did not follow the most basic fundamentals of contract management, says Public Accounts Committee

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The project to centralise the IT systems that support fire and rescue services accross the UK has been "one of the worst project failures" for many years, Margaret Hodge, Chair of the Committee of Public Accounts (PAC) said today.

FiReControl was intended to improve the Fire and Rescue Service by replacing 46 local control rooms with nine purpose-built regional control centres, using a single national computer system to handle calls, mobilise equipment and manage incidents.

This plan, said Hodge, "ended in complete failure. The taxpayer has lost nearly half a billion pounds and eight of the completed regional control centres remain as empty and costly white elephants."

A lack of checks and balances resulted in unrealistic forecasts of cost savings and "naïve over-optimism on the deliverability of the IT solution and under-appreciation or mitigation of the risks," the PAC report said.

"The Department's ambitious vision of abolishing 46 local fire and rescue control rooms around the country and replacing them with nine state of the art regional control centres

"The contract to implement a national IT system linking the control centres was not even awarded until a full three years after the project started. The contract itself was poorly designed and awarded to a company without relevant experience. The computer system was simply never delivered."

The PAC also warned that another £85 million would likely be required if any value is to be extracted from the failed development.