So Penning’s Folly opens today.
This is the national Maritime Operations Centre. It started life being commissioned as the National Fire Service Control Centre. The idea was that anyone dialling 999 and asking for ‘Fire’ got routed to this centre. Details of the location and nature of the fire would be recorded in Fareham and fire engines would be mustered from the local station. After some consideration, the fire service said it was not feasible to run the fire service safely from a national centre. So it was allocated to the Coastguard instead.
Now forgive me, but buildings have names and numbers. They are on roads that also have names or numbers, as are landmarks like woods, forests and heathland, which can catch fire. And fires may spread, but the addresses they start at do not move. Compare that to an emergency on our coast. A holidaymaker on a hired boat sends up a flare and someone dials 999 asking for ‘Coastguard’, being put through to Penning’s Folly in deepest Hampshire. If the caller is not a visitor, they may know where they are and possibly where the flare came from. Or maybe not. And even if the operator in Fareham knows the difference between two similar sounding coastal villages in any part of theUK, could they identify the ‘big rock’ that’s described to them as near where the flare came from? And bear in mind, the casualty will be constantly moving with tides and currents, while someone inFarehamtries to work out which local team is nearest and – wait for it – co-ordinate the searching at Penning’s Folly!
They say the changes are making the Coastguard service more ‘modern’ and ‘robust’. True they are developing a new IT system to ensure all the local centres that are left can have access to all incident data. Assuming the new system works and is delivered on time, this would be a benefit whether you have the 9 centres they propose to keep or the 18 centres they have at the moment. It doesn’t in itself enable 9 centres to operate as effectively as 18. It’s NOT as robust to share work between 9 centres compared with 18 – the maths just don’t make that work. In fact it is exactly half as robust, of course.
The Welsh Assembly and Scottish Parliament have both said they are unhappy that there has been no risk assessment of the closure of specific centres, and have even offered to contribute to the cost of undertaking the. After all there is still time, with Swansea not due to close until 2015, for example. Arrogance wins over common sense, with Penning declaring they’ve done a ‘general’ risk assessment and that’s good enough for him. Easy to say for a minister whose constituency is landlocked. But it will be conservative voters as well as others, from Penning’s Hemel Hempstead constituency as well as the rest of the UK, whose lives are being put at real risk by these senseless closures.
Written by Tim Douglas.Today’s the day for a Ministerial jolly at the grand inauguration of Mike Penning’s Folly. A quiet affair for fear of reality that Penning’s plans will cause fatality He ignored the calls for the plan to be scrapped in order for his moment when hands will be clapped. But when lives are lost because he didn’t listen he must then face the tears as they glisten. No joy today for a service long and proud as truth of closure plans are lost in a cloud.. Whatever the cost of human life Penning’s Folly will lead to strife. Not even now is it too late to be brave scarp the plans so that lives may be saved. Be a man Penning, so you can sleep at night because there will be no surrender without a fight! Written by a fledgling poet!