Future of East Sussex fire service’s control centre to be decided

East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service
East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service

The future of the East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service’s control centre is set to be decided at a meeting next week.

On Thursday (January 9) members of the East Sussex Fire Authority will meet to discuss the next steps for how 999 calls are handled within the county.

Calls to fire and rescue services in East Sussex are currently handled in Haywards Heath

Calls to fire and rescue services in East Sussex are currently handled in Haywards Heath

The discussion comes after councillors previously chose to defer a decision on whether to share its control centre operations as part of a three-way partnership both Surrey and West Sussex fire services. 

While recommended for approval by senior officers, a decision on this arrangement was deferred at a meeting in October as councillors raised concerns about being “rushed” into the multi-million pound outsourcing deal. 

At the time, councillors said they did not have enough information about the alternative options available – including whether ESFRS could run its own standalone control room in Lewes.

As a result, officers were directed to provide more information – both on the potential for a standalone control room and the recommended partnership proposals – for members to consider before making their decision. 

Papers containing this further information have not been made public (as they are said to contain commercially confidential details), but are set to be partly discussed in open session at next Thursday’s meeting.

Previous papers showed the recommended partnership proposal would be expected to cost the fire authority more than £11m over the next seven years. However, it would lead to “immediate operational benefits” as a result of the sharing of resources between fire services, the papers said.

The decision would also impact on the roles of control room staff, based at the fire service’s current control centre at Haywards Heath Fire Station.  Around 24 roles would be affected, according to a fire service spokesman.

At the October meeting, officers warned delaying the decision ran the risk of a breakdown in industrial relations and staffing levels due to further uncertainty.

Officers had also said further delay would pose risks in terms of the stability of the existing fire mobilising system – both in terms of the existing IT system and the company behind it.