Two cash-strapped fire services hope to save millions of pounds by sharing an emergency control centre.

East and West Sussex fire and rescue services now handle 999 calls from a joint centre in Haywards Heath – a move which could save more than £4 million between them over the next five years.

The new centre opened on Wednesday and operates from the “substantially re-modelled” Haywards Heath fire station.

It was funded by a £3.6 million government grant designed to improve fire infrastructure.

The services, which previously operated from separate sites in Chichester and Eastbourne, have lost 20 members of staff between them through voluntary redundancy and retirement following the switch.

The joint venture comes as East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service needs to save more than £7 million over the next five years.

Residents are currently being consulted over plans to remove a fire engine from Preston Circus or Hove fire station, cutting up to 44 firefighters from Brighton and Hastings and downgrading Roedean fire station.

Additionally, cuts at The Ridge fire station in Hastings are being considered by the service.

This month West Sussex Fire and Rescue announced it needed to save £1.6 million from its 2015/16 budget.

However the service has said there were no plans to close any stations or remove immediate response fire engines.

Des Prichard, chief fire officer and chief executive of East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service, said: “Both services will continue to provide a high performing service to meet the changing needs of our respective local communities.

“This is a task being delivered against a declining budget, so by working closer together within our respective control functions we are able to deliver greater efficiency savings.”

Sean Ruth, chief fire officer at West Sussex Fire and Rescue, added: “Both services are fully committed to the Sussex control centre project.

“The project will deliver long-term cost savings, particularly relevant during the challenging economic climate and the reduction in funding being faced by public sector organisations.

“All parties are working hard to ensure a continued first class service.”

Staff at the new centre took 87 calls between 10am on Wednesday to 7.30am yesterday.