London's emergency call centre for fire has been outsourced to Capita, in the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority's (LFEPA) final meeting before the elections. They also gave the London Fire Brigade Museum a temporary reprieve.
The London Fire Brigade control room, which deals with 999 calls, will be handed to Capita by the end of the year. It's a 10 year contract to take over all control room staff and implement a new IT system, which is estimated to save the service £5m over the contract term. Capita, however, are dogged by a series of IT failures working with the public sector – Private Eye, the wags, call the company "Crapita" – see the Criminal Records Bureau, Individual Learning Accounts and school records system Sims. It was also fined £1m for poor customer service in the initial stages of the congestion charge.
This is the first time a UK fire brigade has outsourced its emergency call handling. Brian Coleman, Conservative chair of LFEPA, said
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.
The GMB claims that existing staff do not want to work for a privatised company; we also consider it highly likely that even though staff are being "TUPE"'d across, i.e., with their pay and conditions intact, Capita would look to change those contracts as soon as possible (around six months to a year) to start making savings, opening the door for cheaper, less experienced call takers.
There's a glimmer of good news for the London Fire Brigade Museum. We reported earlier this week that the meeting was expected to sign off its closure on 1 April, but a last-minute amendment was passed allowing the museum to remain open until after the election. In the meantime, they'll look into concerns that storing the collection will cost more than running the museum. There's no desperate rush to kick it out of its current home since it turns out the privatised training provider won't be taking over the building for another 18 months.