UNION leaders are urging the Government to think again about forging ahead with plans for a new regional fire control room.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) — which says the control room shake-up will cost lives — made its call as it emerged the proposed regional centre is already months behind schedule and millions of pounds over budget.

The Government wants to replace 46 control centres with nine regional centres, including one in Warrington which will serve the North-west and replace Greater Manchester Fire Service’s control room in Swinton.

Fire minister Sadiq Khan has admitted the plans are behind schedule and will cost an additional £20 million.

The North-west centre will not be ready until spring, 2012, five months later than expected.

The Government says regional centres are needed because many existing control rooms cannot cope with modern demands.

But the FBU argues that the control centre in Swinton is state-of-the-art and that it is manned by staff with local knowledge, many of whom have more than 30 years experience in the job.

Peter Taylor, FBU secretary, said: “The control room at Swinton is a highly professional operation.

“It is manned by local people, many of whom are from the Bolton area.

“Historically, Bolton has always provided a significant number of our control room staff, meaning there is extremely good local knowledge, which is invaluable.

“When people report fires they can often be quite panicky so it is difficult to get the address from them. Staff with local knowledge will ask them to describe where they are in relation to local landmarks and as they are talking press a button to alert the nearest fire engine.

“The control staff can also help direct firefighters to the fire.

“The new centre could delay the crews from attending a fire because the wrong crew could be sent or they may not be able to find the fire. Time is everything when you are following a fire.

“The longer the delay, the greater the chance of a member of the public or a firefighter getting seriously injured or even killed.”

About the plans, Mr Khan said: “The Government is investing £380m and remains stron