Running costs of a fire control centre that was abandoned before it was even opened have been reduced by £11 million, it has been revealed.
Finding a private company to take on the multi-million pound centre in Wolverhampton has helped slash the annual bill and mean savings will be found over the next 18 years before the lease runs out.
But it is still costing £1.8m a year in rent, security and maintenance, according to the latest figures released under the Freedom of Information Act. The taxpayer was signed up to a costly rental agreement by the former Labour government as part of a project set up by ex-deputy prime minister John Prescott.
The aim was to replace 46 control rooms nationally with nine. But mounting costs meant it never opened and the whole project was scrapped by the Coalition Government in 2010. The overall project cost £482m.
The building at Wolverhampton Business Park then stood empty apart from the round-the-clock security without ever handling a single emergency call. Earlier this year, however, IT company Oosha took on the building and has re-branded it the Midlands Technology Centre, hiring out its offices as conference spaces.
The move will create dozens of jobs and mean the rental income reduces the burden on the public purse.
The Wolverhampton site is the only one of the nine nationally to go to a private company.
The Department for Communities and Local Government said in a report to MPs that it had been successful ‘in reducing future estimated property costs by over £100m through a combination of transferring or letting centres and reducing running costs’.
The report said: “Each of the buildings is secured and maintained by Babcock under a comprehensive facilities management contract. Facilities management and utilities are considerable costs, due to the specialist equipment present in the buildings, and this is an area where the department has worked hard to reduce expenditure. Since 2012/13 facilities management costs have been reduced by 45 per cent and other running costs savings have been made.”