Terrorist response units facing setbacks

Terrorist response units for the fire and rescue services are facing budget and timing setbacks, according to a report published today by the National Audit Office (NAO).

The fire and rescue services’ £330 million programme was introduced to help provide immediate response to terrorist threats and other large incidents. The programme involves the purchase of specialist vehicles, equipment, and the training of 10,000 members.

“While the progress made by the fire and rescue service is very welcome, this report highlights the department of communities’ failure to deliver projects on budget and on time,” said Liberal Democrat spokesperson Julia Goldworthy.

“The government claims these plans will save money, but so far costs are rising and the projects [are] running behind time.”

The report highlights that financial controls and financial reporting for the projects was “poor”. Fraud of £867,200 remained undetected for nine months within the programme.

Money was also wasted when inadequate contracting and record keeping resulted in a year delay of equipment, which cost the programme between £3 and £8 million.

The report shows the original proposal to enhance fire and rescue services had a completion date for early 2003, but most of the new equipment and vehicles were not in until 2005 and after.

Tim Burr, head of NAO said that the government should have planned the program more efficiently.
“Better value for money could have been achieved, and the project has been subject to considerable delays,” he said.

“In the current financial climate, taxpayers will want assurances that their money is being used prudently and not wasted on cost overruns and expensive consultants,” Ms Goldworthy added.