Manston MoD fire training and development centre to be closed following Capita contract award

Manston fire training in action Photo Mike Nichols

The fire training and Development Centre at Manston will close with operations being transferred to Moreton-in-Marsh.

The move follows the agreement in July of a 12 year contract, worth £525 million, to outsource Ministry of Defence fire and rescue operations to private company Capita.

The firm was selected by the MOD as the winning tender for the Defence Fire and Rescue Project in June 2018.

But there was a delay in the award of the contract following a legal challenge from Serco Ltd, the other final bidder. The government agreed an out-of-court settlement of £10 million to settle the dispute.

The contract involves operating 53 fire stations  in the UK, and on MOD sites in Cyprus and the Falkland Islands.

Capita says investment will be made in digital technology solutions, new fire engines and other equipment to upgrade fire-fighting capabilities.

Photo Mike Nichols

But the Manston centre will be closed down with training transferred to Capita’s existing fire training facility at Moreton-in-Marsh.

In a statement to Parliament Minister of State, Ministry of Defence, Tobias Ellwood said: “The award of this contract will enable the Ministry of Defence to vacate large elements of the Manston site which will be released to support economic development, potentially including housing, in the local area.”

The statement was made prior to the sale of the Manston site by Stone Hill Park, which had a masterplan for housing and infrastructure, to RiverOak Strategic Partners, which plans to develop a cargo hub.

The outsourcing has been slammed by Nia Griffith MP, Labour’s Shadow Defence Secretary, who said: ““It beggars belief that the Conservatives have awarded this service to a company that has failed so appallingly to deliver its existing defence contracts. Capita has made a total mess of Army recruitment, and yet Ministers seem hell-bent on privatising as many MoD services as possible, without any consideration of the costs to our Armed Forces or the taxpayer.

“This service should never have been privatised in the first place when it is being delivered well in House.”

The Defence Fire and Risk Management Organisation provides fire cover to 300,000 Ministry of Defence employees and strategic assets dispersed across 4,600 sites with 45,000 buildings worth more than £100bn. It has 2,000 military, civil service, locally employed civilian and contractor staff.

Initially, around 560 MOD civil servants, mainly firefighting personnel, are expected to transfer to Capita under the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) regulations.

A date for the closure at Manston has not yet been released.

Capita has been asked for further comment.