Latest Public Sector News

10.03.14

Further funding cuts could start affecting fire services

Further funding cuts to the UK fire service could start to impact on its ability to deliver effective firefighting, rescue operations and community safety, a new Local Government Association (LGA) report has stated.

The AnyFire study, which has mapped the impact of an expected further 10% cut in 2015/16 on a typical single-purpose fire and rescue authority (FRA), has stated that FRAs will need to push the boundaries of innovation and creativity as they continue to strive to protect services from funding cuts.

However, the LGA, which represents all 46 fire and rescue services in England and Wales, stated that government funding for FRAs has reduced by 28% during the current Parliament with its funding gap increasing at an average of £3m a year and set to reach £17.5m by 2020.

This has led to FRAs saving millions of pounds by changing work patterns and shift arrangements, reducing its frontline firefighters, freezing recruitment and pay, cutting back office costs and through sharing their command centre with police and ambulance services.

Cllr Kay Hammond, chair of the LGA's Fire Services Management Committee, said: “Fire and rescue services continue to provide a first class service to their communities, as their performance in the recent extreme weather and flooding demonstrated.

“But our AnyFire modelling shows that further funding cuts in 2015/16 and beyond could start to impact on their ability to deliver this effective firefighting, rescue operations and community safety. The reality is that fire services are reaching the limit of efficiency savings and the next few years will be very challenging for them all.”

Therefore, the LGA has called on the government to review the national resilience and emergency contribution it expects from FRAs; explore the impact of the funding reductions on risk levels; remove restrictions on FRAs to set tax levels locally without having to hold a referendum; provide more support to FRAs looking at merging or sharing services; and protect local government from further funding cuts.

Responding to the LGA’s report on cuts to fire and rescue services, Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: “The LGA are right to say that fire and rescue services must be given the funding to play a key, continued role in national resilience.

“But it’s clear that across the country cuts are already slowing emergency response times, impacting on critical services and endangering lives.All of us working in fire and rescue and local government must stand together to save fire and rescue services and convince central government to provide adequate funding for brigades.”

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email opinion@publicsectorexecutive.com

(Image copyright Darren Felon. Used here under a Creative Commons licence.)

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