On 31 January, I met representatives from Cambridgeshire and Peterborough fire authority, together with representatives of Suffolk fire and rescue authorities, to discuss their interest in the control centre building in Cambridge and funding matters. They also discussed their bid for joint control working. On 8 March, there was a follow-up meeting at official level.
I thank the Minister for those comments. Fire services such as ours in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, which are already low cost and largely have retained firefighters, are extremely vulnerable to excessive funding reductions. Beyond a certain point, there is no alternative other than the withdrawal of appliances and station closures. I accept the need for some savings, but there is still a lack of clarity about how much the service will have to save. Will the Minister meet me, staff from the authority and the service and other local MPs, who are also concerned, to discuss how much funding will be made available in future?
The overall reduction in funding to Cambridgeshire and Peterborough fire authority is 1.5% of its spending power. I am glad to say that the joint bid with Suffolk to improve fire control room services was successful, and that it will receive £400,000 in revenue and £180 million in capital funding. I am always happy to meet hon. Members to discuss the circumstances in their constituencies.
I am humbled by your confidence, Mr Speaker, in my ability to speak about the funding of Cambridgeshire—and Suffolk, which the Minister also mentioned in his response to the hon. Member for Cambridge (Dr Huppert). In his discussions with those two county authorities, and others, did the Minister consider their funding of the fire service college, which is about to be privatised? How will he maintain control over the college and can he assure hon. Members about its future?
I will happily answer that at an appropriate moment, but I doubt whether I shall be in order if I try to do so now. I acknowledge the hon. Gentleman’s interest in the fire service, but the discussions were about joint control room bids—a facility made available to all those interested in bidding. As he will recognise, the need to have such discussions about the future of joint control rooms arose partly because we were stuck with 30-odd-year leases on control rooms that were not usable because the previous Government never delivered the IT to go inside them
For the avoidance of doubt, the fire service college is in the Cotswolds rather than the Fens.
Will the Minister support me in saying that we should pursue further shared and combined services with other fire authorities on, for example, payroll, administration and human resources rather than moving immediately to front-line cuts such as the closure of Stanground or Dogsthorpe fire stations in the city of Peterborough?
I agree with my hon. Friend that there are sensible means of meeting deficit reduction targets, without having an impact on stations and staffing. I pointed that out in a letter to the shadow fire Minister, the hon. Member for Dudley North (Ian Austin), in December 2010. References to shared service, joint working, joint procurement, flexible shift patterns and working patterns are exactly the sort of issues that go-ahead fire authorities are taking on board.