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South Norfolk
  Firefighters making progress, despite poor procurement, says MP

  IMAGE: Richard Bacon MP is shown rescue equipment by USAR manager Tim Lewis
Richard Bacon MP is shown the
equipment at the disposal of the
Norfolk Urban Search and Rescue Team,
set up as part of the government's
New Dimension scheme

Commenting on the Commons public accounts committee report on the New Dimension project to enhance Fire and Rescue Services’ capacity to respond to terrorist and other large-scale incidents, South Norfolk MP Richard Bacon, a member of the committee, said:

“The New Dimension programme is the government’s 330 million response to 9/11.” 


“The scheme provides specialist equipment and training to Fire Brigades across England, boosting their ability to tackle large-scale incidents and terrorist attacks.”

“However, Whitehall tried to procure the equipment without the experience or the capacity to do it properly.  As a result, the programme has been hindered by poor project and financial management.  There was no overall implementation plan or clarity of scope or objectives.”

“Despite this, Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service have made a good start.  I recently visited a training session for Norfolk’s Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) Team in Wymondham, which was established under the New Dimension programme.  The team had an impressive array of kit and appears to be well integrated into Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service’s structure.  Given the range of threats that we face, it is important that the Fire Service maintains a leading edge training programme.” 

Mr Bacon was speaking as the Commons public accounts committee published its report on the New Dimension project to enhance Fire and Rescue Services’ capacity to respond to terrorist and other large-scale incidents.  The New Dimension programme was established by the former Office of the Deputy Prime Minister following the terrorist attacks in the United States of America on 11 September 2001. 

New Dimension aimed to enable Fire and Rescue Services to respond effectively to terrorist and other large-scale incidents such as flooding, and procured specialist vehicles and equipment, funded training for firefighters and provided other support at a cost of around 330 million. Equipment procured by the programme was used in major incidents such as the Buncefield oil depot fire in December 2005 and the flooding in the summer of 2007.

The report finds that, until 2005, the procurement was managed poorly, with inadequate programme, project and financial management, and no overarching implementation plan or objectives.  Funding was uncertain and a number of project teams were set up to work on specific capabilities with little or no experience of procurement or project management practice. Essential support functions, such as logistics, command and control, and training facilities, were either delayed or overlooked. Fire stations were not altered to be ready for equipment roll-out.  No budgets were set in the first two years of the programme, and formal financial information was not provided to the Programme Board until September 2005.

Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service has five modular Urban Search and Rescue vehicles, which carry a wide range of rescue equipment.  Mr Bacon visited the team at their base at Wymondham Fire Station on 30 January 2009.

12 March 2009

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