The Government has been blasted for wasting taxpayer’s cash after buying coffee machines worth £6,000 for a string of mothballed regional fire control rooms.
MPs have slammed the bungled project to replace 46 fire control rooms with nine regional centres, which is £300million over budget and costing £50,000 a day.
And yesterday it emerged that £54,000 has been spent fitting luxury Brasilia coffee machines in each building – even though they have not opened yet.
The centres were built in 2007 as part of the Government’s FiReControl project to create a nationally-linked network of firefighters.
But they have been unable to open because of computer software problems which are not expected to be resolved until 2011.
The empty buildings are costing taxpayers £100,000 in rent, bills and security.
The Fire Brigades Union has called for the project to be scrapped after the original £120million price tag spiralled to £420million.
Shadow fire services minister Stewart Jackson and MP for Peterborough said: ”Labour’s plans for these regional fire centres have been dysfunctional from start to finish.
”Yet again, Gordon Brown has wasted the public’s money on a botched and overblown IT project.
”They can spend £420m on the likes of deluxe espresso machines, but they can’t fix the system to answer the phones.”
A spokesman for the TaxPayers’ Alliance said: ”It’s unbelievable that these regional fire centres are being decked out with luxury extras like top of the range coffee machines.
”These centres are already all hugely over-budget and delayed, and taxpayers are footing the bill for this incompetence.
”At a time when we’re paying for buildings that are going to lie empty until work is complete next year, those in charge should be taking a no-frills approach to finishing the job, not buying expensive toys.”
The regional centres were originally due to rolled out in 2003 by then deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, who felt many small fire authorities would benefit from regional centralisation.
He argued that greater co-ordination would save money and this could be achieved by taking the 46 county control rooms and squeezing them into nine super control rooms.
But the plans were slammed this week in a report by the Communities and Local Government Select Committee, which branded the the computer network ”ill-suited”.
Committee chairman Dr Phyllis Starkey (Labour, Milton Keynes South West) said: ”The original aims and expected benefits of this scheme were, in our view, sound. But the department has clearly not learned from its previous mistakes.
”FiReControl is yet another catalogue of further poor judgment and mismanagement.”
Fire Minister Shahid Malik defended the coffee machines, saying: ”Regional control centres are equipped to support continuous operations and have high quality facilities including industrial standard kitchens.
”This allows the buildings to provide for large numbers of staff, for example during large scale emergencies.
”The coffee machines were provided by each developer as part of the construction fit out of the building with the rest of the kitchen equipment.
”The cost of each coffee machine, associated equipment and training is in the region of five to six thousand pounds.”
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