East Sussex Fire Authority is to meet on 12 February 2015 to set its annual budget for 2015/16 and the level of Council Tax that local households pay. These decisions will be taken at a time when central government is reducing the grant it gives to the Authority, making it more dependent on the income it receives from business rates and local council taxpayers to maintain its services.
The Fire Authority will be asked to decide whether to raise Council Tax by 1.94% or keep Council Tax levels the same and accept a freeze grant from Government.
Option A: increasing Council Tax by 1.94%
This would increase Band D Council Tax by £1.62 to £85.07 a year, raising an estimated £23.2 million. The Fire Authority’s net revenue budget would be set at £38.6m million.
This would be only the second time in 5 years that the Authority has increased its Council Tax and means that our services cost the average household just £1.64 each week.
Option B: accepting the Council Tax Freeze Grant in 2015/16
Freezing Band D Council Tax at £83.45 (i.e. 0% increase on 2014/15) and accepting the Government’s Freeze Grant would raise an estimated £22.7 million. This would involve setting a net revenue budget of £38.4 million.
How East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service is funded
The Authority’s net revenue budget is funded from three main sources (figures in brackets are % for 2015/16 if the Council tax is increased by 1.94% - option A):
- Council Tax (61%)
- Government grant (20%)
- Business Rates (19%)
Our general government grant has decreased by 26% from £10.5m in 2013/14 to £7.8m in 2015/16 and we expect it to fall to £2.8m by 2019/20.
The Authority set its budget at £38.8m for 2014/15, a 0.8% reduction from 2013/14.
Where the money goes
The main areas the Authority spends its revenue budget are (figures in brackets are % for 2015/16 if the Council tax is increased by 1.94% - option A)
- Employees (68%)
- Running expenses (23%)
- Capital Financing (5%)
- Contribution to Reserves (4%)
The Authority has made good progress in identifying and agreeing savings proposals over the last 12 months, through its ‘Changing the Service, Shaping our Future’ programme. When pre-existing programmes and other non-operational savings are taken into account the Authority has already identified £5.7m of savings for delivery by 2019/20, but will still need to find up to another £1.7m of savings over that period (depending on decisions on Council Tax).
Further options for changes to operational and non-operational services that are expected to deliver additional savings will be developed by officers for the Authority to consider over the next 12-18 months.
The Fire Authority meeting takes place at East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service’s HQ, 20 Upperton Road, Eastbourne BN21 1EU from 10.30.