Wakefield’s £14m fire control centre still standing empty

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The government is still trying to find a new occupier for a botched fire control centre which has been standing idle at the taxpayers’ expense.

The £14m centre at Paragon Business Village in Wakefield was set up to handle 999 calls as part of a centralisation of emergency call handling.

However, it was scrapped in 2010 after the project ran over budget and was hit by IT problems.

Two years ago, the government said it was close to a deal for a new occupant for the Wakefield centre.

But the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) confirmed that potential new occupants had pulled out.

A report by the department said: “Whilst initial interest from potential sub-tenants detailed within the last update has not materialised, there has been specific interest in, and direct enquiries about, all of the four remaining centres, which we are pursuing,”

The centre, which was renamed the Zenith Control Centre as part of a marketing drive, remains one of four still standing idle.

But the DCLG said an unnamed organisation bidding for a government contract to provide mobile communications to the emergency services is including the Wakefield centre in its tender.

The contract is due to be awarded in July.

A year ago, fire service bosses decided to replace the botched centre with an emergency control room in Leeds – at a fraction of the cost.

West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service converted an existing building in Leeds to become the new 999 centre at a cost of £340,000 from its own budget.

Under a joint project with South Yorkshire fire services, IT systems were to be upgraded with a£3.6m government grant.

The fire control centres were built to streamline the UK’s 999 fire calls under a project started by the Labour government in 2004.

They were built to high specifications, with £6,000 coffee machines and £4,000 sofas.

A 25-year lease was signed on the buildings, saddling the taxpayer with millions of pounds in repayments.

The scheme ran millions of pounds over budget and suffered a string of delays and IT problems.

It was scrapped by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government in 2010 after an agreement was reached with the main contractor, Cassidian, to terminate the project.

The National Audit Office slammed the project as an expensive waste of money in a damning 2011 report.