'Wasting £1m' claim

PUBLISHED: 01:01 31 January 2008 | UPDATED: 08:48 10 June 2010

THE government has defended new fire headquarters after firefighters labelled the non-operational Taunton centre a waste of more than £1 million in rent. Union members are angry Whitehall has committed to paying rent on the new regional control centre m

THE government has defended new fire headquarters after firefighters labelled the non-operational Taunton centre a waste of more than £1 million in rent.Union members are angry Whitehall has committed to paying rent on the new regional control centre - months before any fire services move into the building in 2009.When a Devon and Cornwall Fire and Rescue service £900,000 budget deficit threatens jobs and 24-hour fire cover at Exmouth and other stations in the region, the union argues the money could be spent better.Firefighters accuse government of paying rent since last September - costing around £2 million before services move in. Government insists rent will be paid from February - still costing £1.3 million.The Fire Brigade Union has opposed the new regional centre. Secretary John Drake said: "It sums up what we have said all along. Here is an investment into the fire service, but it all ends up in the pockets of developers and consultants, rather than being spent on frontline fire crews."A spokesperson for the communities and local government department - which oversees fire services - said the control centres would be vital to the long-term future of the service.Said the spokesperson: "The South West Regional Control Centre is already occupied by the initial regional project team, and the building is being extensively used to carry forward work associated with the detailed transition planning process.

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