East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service has set out proposals for its budget as changes in funding impact on finances.
The Fire Authority is considering a range of options which include accepting the Government's 1% Freeze Grant or increasing Council Tax by up to 1.94% in 2014/15 (further details below). It will make a final decision on Council Tax at its February 2014 meeting. At the same time, it will consider a public consultation which sets out proposals for change within the Service.
Fire Authority Chairman Phil Howson says:
“We are heavily reliant on both Council tax and Government grants for our funding. The Government is significantly reducing the grant we receive and encouraging us not to increase Council tax.
The Fire Authority has to balance our determination to provide a high performing service with the reality of a shrinking budget. As Fire Authority members, we have a statutory duty and a legal responsibility for over 800,000 people that live in East Sussex and Brighton and Hove. As members, we must take an holistic and strategic view and not just consider the local area we may live in.”
Changing the Service – shaping our future
Chief Fire Officer and Chief Executive Des Prichard said:
“We are looking at how we best use our resources as part of our annual planning work. We are committed to being innovative to deliver the prevention, protection and response services people in East Sussex and Brighton and Hove city need to stay safe.
The reality is that change is inevitable, not only because of the financial situation but because the needs and risks in the community are different. For example the number of incidents we attend has dropped – in part due to the hard work of our staff in reducing the chances of fire and other emergencies.
We are in a strong place to meet the challenges ahead, and we do have a period of time to implement change. We want to hear from the public we serve about our proposals.”
If approved by the Fire Authority, the consultation will be launched mid-February.
Where we get our money
Our 2013/2014 budget stands at £39.1 million.
· 56% Council tax (£81.86 in 2013/14 per Band D property)
· 17% business rates
· 27% Government grants
A small amount of income comes from fees and charges
What our proposals mean for Council Tax payers
The Fire Authority is considering two options:
Option A: accepting the Council Tax Freeze Grant in 2014/15.
· Our overall budget would be set at £38.397 million.
· This would mean Council tax payers pay the same as they did in 2013/2014 –for Band D this amounts to £81.86
· This would raise £21.827 million of the funding needed.
Option B: Increasing Council Tax by 1.94%
· Our overall budget would be set at £38.568m.
· This would mean Band D Council tax increase to £83.45.
· This would raise £22.250 million of the funding needed.
These proposals follow previous focus-group research has indicated that there would be considerable public support of an increase in Council Tax. This is because people thought the current Council tax payment was low and because they understood that the money would go exclusively to the Fire Service.
The public’s main priorities were for the Fire Service to consider more economical duty systems and to raise council tax; they did not want to see fire engines reduced and response times lengthened; but they did want to protect preventive work in the community, albeit in a more targeted and economical manner.