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Police joint control room bid fails

POLICE chiefs moved to axe more than half of Scotland's 999 control rooms after failing to secure a deal to share facilities with fire and ambulance services, The Herald can reveal.

The new national force last week said it would shut units in Dumfries, Aberdeen, Stirling, Glasgow and Glenrothes to cut costs, putting some 300 jobs officially "at risk".

But it did so only after detailed talks with other emergency services over joint control rooms came to nothing as each sought to preserve their own estates.

Scotland's police, fire and ambulance services have all come under fire in recent years for centralising command and control structures.

Aberdeen, for example, has lost or is losing control rooms for all three services.

Scotland's Chief Constable Sir Stephen House will put his formal proposals to cut control rooms to his ruling board, the Scottish Police Authority, later this week.

In his plan he outlines efforts to negotiate shared facilities with the other services.

His paper to the SPA said: "Despite detailed consideration of opportunities to operate in partnership with other blue-light services at strategic and project team levels, it has not proven possible to advance this ambition at this stage.

"This is largely due to a shared position whereby each service wishes to operate within current premises and profile on a reduced basis and the significant cost associated with relocating equipment from current to alternative locations."

Sir Stephen, however, does not rule out the development of joint control rooms in the future.

His paper added: "Clearly further exploration of ­opportunities will be a feature of the implementation of this and future proposals."

Some senior officers have long lobbied for joint 999 control rooms.

They include Chief Superintendent David O'Connor, president of the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents.

Last night Mr O'Connor said: "Police Scotland and other emergency services should be looking at co-locating their centres, sharing resources and exploiting opportunities to work together. Why are they not doing this now?"

The veteran officer believes joint control rooms for all three services could provide more ­opportunities for "dispersed service models" - police jargon for facilities that are more spread around the country.

Fire, police and ambulance experts stress each service can need specialist call-handling but few have objections in principle to sharing the same facilities.

Police and ambulance crews will share a new operational base being built in Fort William.

Police Scotland currently has 10 control rooms, which co-ordinate information from 999 calls, and nine contact centres for non-urgent 101 calls, spread out over 11 sites.

It proposes closing five control rooms - in Dumfries, Stirling, Glenrothes, Pitt Street in Glasgow, and central Aberdeen - and a service centre in Bucksburn, Aberdeen, over two years.

It will keep full-scale control rooms in Govan in Glasgow, ­Motherwell, Bilston Glen in ­Midlothian, and Dundee, and a special command centre in ­Inverness, which will not take calls from the public.

Scotland's single fire brigade has already announced plans to close five of its eight control rooms. This week its ruling board will decide on whether to axe units in Aberdeen and Inverness.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said it was up to police and fire boards to decide on control rooms. But she added: "Reconfiguring the work of control centres will improve the way emergency services respond to calls and incidents, reduce duplication and ensure resources are better directed to the frontline.

"The geographical location of control rooms has no impact on the service the public receives."

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