The Scoop

London Fire Brigade privatises 999 call centre

Adam Bienkov | Friday 16 March, 2012 08:49

Boris Johnson’s fire authority yesterday voted to privatise the brigade’s 999 service.

The controversial deal with Capita is the first time that a fire brigade’s call handling service has been outsourced in the UK.

A spokesperson for the authority claimed that it would save the brigade £5 million over the next ten years.

The Mayor’s fire chief Brian Coleman said today:

“This is a win-win situation for Londoners. Outsourcing the Brigade’s 999 control centre will mean people in the capital benefit from a new, high-tech system that will mobilise our firefighters to incidents even more quickly and this will be done at less cost.”

Coleman caused controversy in recent years after he outsourced the brigade’s “appliances” or fire engines to another private company.

My investigations revealed that the company’s chief executive had previously taken Mr Coleman for a number of lunches and even given him a £350 hamper from Harvey Nichols.

Asset Co later hit severe financial difficulties and even risked going bust.

The brigade admit that this has resulted in a serious deterioration in the service they provide.

According to a worrying authority report, the crisis means that Asset Co have not been able to carry out the proper checks on equipment that they are legally required to do with some appliances being used beyond their natural life.

The Fire Brigade’s Union claim that “the safety of Londoners is being jeopardised” and have warned that yesterday’s deal with Capita could lead to similar problems with the 999 service.

A spokesperson for the FBU said today:

“There are some things that should be beyond privatisation, and this is one of them. The profit motive has no place in the delivery of frontline emergency services… The staff of the London Fire Brigade are against this move, and I’m sure Londoners will oppose it too. It is a step too far.”

A spokesperson for the GMB Union told the BBC: “They are playing with people’s lives, livelihoods and properties. The service will suffer.”

Last year Labour’s Mayoral candidate Ken Livingstone described the proposals as “a new low.”

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