Memorandum by Austin Mitchell MP (FRS
I'm pleased that you are holding an enquiry
and grateful for the opportunity to submit evidence.
My concerns echo those of the Fire Brigades
Union but with a special emphasis on the needs of South Humberside.
1. Grimsby is part of South Humberside,
an area which is always tagged onto the end of the bigger units
of regional government. We do not fit naturally in either Yorkshire,
which we belong to for regional government purposes, or the East
Midlands to which the South Bank of the Humber was previously
attached. This remoteness from any regional centre in a reorganised
fire service is going to cause problems and may cause delays and
2. These problems stand to be heightened
by the industrial make-up of the area. The South Bank is a concentration
of oil refineries, chemical industries, gas generators which pose
unique dangers already indicated by the Flixborough explosion
in the Seventies, the Conoco fire more recently, and intermittent
problems with emissions and the storage of dangerous chemicals.
3. It is a coastal and riparian area subject
to occasional flooding.
4. In this situation a centralised control
system which is rapidly increasing in estimated costs (already
doubled in ministerial estimates) which are going to absorb a
substantial part of the fire service budget and, therefore, weaken
other services is a risk too far.
5. Because this concentration is a large
new technological project the danger is that the early days will
see the generation of problems. The system will be complex, risky
and subject to a long settling in and proving time which heightens
risk and danger in an area like mine.
6. Regional concentration may make co-operation
with neighbouring forces to the south more difficult than it has
7. As a great believer in the maxim that
if it ain't broke we shouldn't try to fix it, I am not convinced
that the case has been made out. I have seen no demonstration
of inadequacies in the present system which would justify such
a massive change and certainly none to justify the job cuts which
seem to be an implicit part of the claimed cost savings.
Finally, I must comment that the pace of change
should not be rushed. We make our worst mistakes as a government
and as a country when we rush into large changes, particularly
in such a complex technological field as this. The risks, delays,
indeed disasters which have attended other IT changes cannot be
afforded when we are dealing with such a vital service as fire