Emergency services in England, Wales and Scotland are about to introduce a new radio system, but the work are in delay because of the cost. The Mps say this change may cost taxpayers £475m a year.
The new Emergency Services Network system should start in December 2019. However, the Public Accounts Committee supposes, that it could require more testing beyond its scheduled start date.
The alternative was extend the contracts for the old network, but this would cost hundreds of millions of pounds. Ministers affirm the technology would be the “most advanced of its kind”.
Currently, the 105 police, fire and ambulance services in England, Scotland and Wales communicate using the radio network Airwave – contracts for which expire in two years.
However, the Public Accounts Committee said the replacement of the current communication system would maybe take more time than supposed because ESN was still not proven.
Committee chairwoman Meg Hillier said:
“It is critical for public safety and achieving value for money that the government has a firm grasp of the implications of delays in its timetable and a costed plan to tackle them. We will expect it to demonstrate real progress in this area when it reports back to us later this year.”
A Home Office spokesman said ESN was the most advanced communications system of its kind and would deliver “significant savings for the taxpayer”.
He added: “The timescales are ambitious because we want to get the most from technology that will help save lives, but we are clear that no risks will be taken with public safety and the existing Airwave system will continue until transition on to ESN is completed.”