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Audit report highlights management deficits in Fire Authority

13 December, 2006

Sinn Féin North Antrim MLA Philip McGuigan has said that a Comptroller and Auditor General Report published today into the purchase and redevelopment of a new Fire and Rescue Service Training Centre at Boucher Crescent in Belfast highlights serious deficits in the management of the project.

Mr McGuigan said:

"Two million pound was spent on purchasing the site for the new Fire and Rescue Service Training Centre with a budget of £1.9 million for new buildings and adaptations. So far £1.7 million of public money has been spent on the project and yet, 8 years after the purchase of the site we still do not have the training facilities that are required.

"This report highlights serious deficits in the management of the project. The two key training elements (breathing-apparatus training facilities and a 'real-fire' house) have gone totally off-stream and this has compromised the project's ability provide the training that it was supposed to.

"The finding that there is a very significant shortfall, of at least 15%, in the training that the new centre was meant to deliver over a 5 year period reinforces this concern. This has tied up the older, unsuitable Westland facility and compounded the financial situation.

"The fact that there has now been subsequent restriction on what training can be carried at the Boucher facility as a result of complaints and a near 290% increase in rent costs also demonstrates how badly managed this entire project was, particularly as these two issues were identified early on by consultants.

"This report highlights persistent and serious management problems that are unfortunately not unique to the Fire Authority. This body has since been replaced but yet there are again very serious questions about the new management particularly in relation to the plans to reduce fire service cover at 12 sites across the north, plans that will leave people and fire service personnel vulnerable." ENDS

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