Fire centre up for sale

Regional Fire Control Centre, Paragon Business village, Wakefield which control centre could be left empty after MPs tabled a motion to have it scrapped.
Regional Fire Control Centre, Paragon Business village, Wakefield which control centre could be left empty after MPs tabled a motion to have it scrapped.
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A BOTCHED fire control centre costing the taxpayer £5,000 a day is up for sale.

The centre at Paragon Business Village has been put on the market as part of a package of five fire control centres at £107m, after the offshore company which owns it went into administration.

The centre was one of nine new 999 control rooms which were supposed to become regional hubs for fire service emergencies.

After running millions of pounds over budget and hitting a string of IT problems, the scheme was scrapped.

The centres have so far cost the government £270m – but the costs continue to spiral after a 25-year lease was signed, saddling taxpayers with years of rent on the buildings.

Local government minister Bob Neill said: “The coalition government has terminated the project to protect taxpayers from further losses, and is actively seeking public or private buyers for the empty buildings.”

Around £25,000-a-week was paid in rent to Jersey-registered company The Control Centre General Partner Ltd, which is now in administration, for the Wakefield centre. The company’s assets are now being sold off by administrators PricewaterhouseCooper.

The Jersey company, which is not subject to UK tax, was set up and controlled by investment firm Evans Randall, which bought five of the fire centres in 2006.

Evans Randall’s website lists the fire centres among its investment portfolio, saying leases on the buildings will expire in January 2031.

The firm declined to comment on whether it had made any profit from the fire centres. It said in a statement: “We delivered these properties to the government on time, on budget and to a very strict specification.

“We have fulfilled our commitment to them and we are deeply disappointed that the government has not implemented the Fire Control Centres project.”

Latest figures show the Wakefield centre still costs £100,531 a month in rent, £5,000 for electricity, £570 for water and £29,890 on maintenance.