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Greater London Authority

05/10/2019 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 05/10/2019 06:31

Statement from the Assembly on NAO Emergency Services Network report

The delayed Emergency Services Network (ESN) is likely to be even later than expected and the Government's already increased forecast costs are highly uncertain, according to today's report by the National Audit Office (NAO).

Len Duvall AM, Chair of the London Assembly GLA Oversight Committee said:

'Since 2017, we have examined high-level progress with the development of the ESN in London, speaking to the Home Office, Emergency Services and Transport for London (TfL).

'In 2017, we learnt that a 12-month nationwide delay in the time taken to transition from Airwave to ESN would cost £475 million. That kind of number is rightly abhorrent to the taxpayer - and there's every likelihood the figure will rise with the postponed launch date of 2022 already in doubt.

'We raised the alarm and demanded action on these very issues in October 2018 (1). This latest blow comes at a time when the Metropolitan Police budgets, in particular, are critically overstretched (2).

'This programme is hugely important to the capital and it is imperative that we get it right. Police, fire and ambulance services need a stable and robust communications system. Any coverage issues can mean the difference between life and death.

'Delays always increase costs - but these costs have spiralled, and now appear to be out of control. However, when it comes to the safety of Londoners, no corners should be cut. The Government needs to get a grip on this situation because serious risks remain which the Home Office is yet to resolve.

'The ESN is being implemented across the country, but it poses particular challenges in London because of the need for the emergency services to communicate on the Underground network.

'I will be asking the police, fire and ambulances service if they are ready to implement the new technology the moment the Government gets a grip on this programme. I will also want to ensure that TfL - which has struggled to deliver large scale transport projects - has the right IT and commercial skills to support coverage on the Underground.'