The potential - and limit - of emergency service co-operation is being looked at in a series of pilot projects, including one in Wiltshire.

Ambulance and fire brigade headquarters are being relocated to the police headquarters site in Devizes where a new shared command and control centre is being built.

Joint accommodation is being explored at other sites across the county and some services - such as occupational health - may be shared. Cost savings may be achieved by pooling fleet maintenance and spare parts, and there should be savings from running only one HQ.

But, although the command centre will have one information technology system, the three services will continue to employ their own staff to handle calls and despatch services. Multi-skilling - which is used in other countries in Europe - was looked at and rejected as potentially risky.

The cost of the developments is expected to be close to£6m, and the move to a joint HQ will not be complete until 2004.The Fire Brigade Union is opposing the central control scheme and there have been legal pitfalls. Staff from the different services doing very similar jobs are currently paid widely differing rates, which could lead to discontent unless it can be addressed.

And the benefits? 'One call brings all' is the slogan being used, and the three services are hoping to provide a better, more unified response.

'Looking at it from the perspective of the public it will provide a seamless service to anyone who has an emergency, 'says Wiltshire chief constable Elizabeth Neville.

Handling major incidents should be easier - a separate room has been set aside where staff from all three services can immediately act as a team.