The Government is to launch a campaign to market a “white elephant” fire control centre, complete with features including a £6,000 coffee machine.
The building is a legacy of the failed £423 million FireControl project, which was championed by Labour but scrapped by the coalition Government.
The newly built development, just off the M5 at Taunton, was designed to consolidate seven fire control services from Wiltshire to Cornwall into a single hub.
Yet despite never being used for that purpose, it costs taxpayers £5,000 per day.
Now, Local Government Minister Baroness Hanham has said the Government is widening the search for tenants.
She said: “Having sought public sector tenants, my department is launching a marketing campaign to attract tenants from a wider range of organisations for the remaining five buildings, including from the private sector,” said the minister.
The structures were said to be built to a high specification, with a number of “desirable features”, such as good security, as well as a £6,000 polished chrome espresso coffee machine bought for each of the sites under the Labour government.
“It is clearly unsatisfactory that taxpayers have had to foot the bill for this poorly conceived and poorly implemented project from the last administration, and taxpayers will no doubt resent such expensive buildings lying empty because of the botched procurement and handling of Fire Control under the last government,” said the minister.
Phil Jordan, acting regional secretary for the Fire Brigades Union, said the organisation had been “vindicated” in its long-running campaign against the project.
The union had raised a range of concerns including cost, the loss of local knowledge and the quality of the technology involved.
Mr Jordan said: “The Government should get rid of this white elephant as soon as possible. Cuts are happening up and down the country, yet still we are paying £5,000 per day for this building to stand idle.
“Despite this Government’s promise that no jobs would be lost, thousands have gone across the country.
“Fire stations are closing and firefighters are having to return to Victorian shift systems where they are having to stay in stations for two or three days at a time.
“It’s an absolute disgrace that money is still being wasted on this.”
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