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LGA - Impact of funding cuts on fire service highlighted

Fire and rescue authorities will need to push the boundaries of innovation and creativity as they continue to strive to protect services from funding cuts, a new report warns today.

The Local Government Association, which represents all 46 fire and rescue services in England and Wales, has mapped the impact of an expected further 10 per cent cut in 2015/16 on a typical single purpose fire and rescue authority (FRA).

The AnyFire modelling highlights the challenges facing fire and rescue services across the country and the tough decisions being taken to save money and become more efficient.

The typical FRA's government funding will have reduced by 28 per cent during the life of this Parliament with its funding gap increasing at an average of £3 million a year and set to reach £17.5 million by 2020.

It has already saved 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.

If funding reductions continue then AnyFire will keep being innovative to manage its resources but the reality is that these financial challenges are testing them to the limit.

To tackle the issue, the LGA is calling for the Government to:

  • Review the national resilience and emergency contribution it expects from FRAs and to make sure they are funded accordingly.
  • Explore the impact of the funding reductions on risk levels, both at the local level and in terms of national resilience.
  • Remove restrictions on FRAs to set tax levels locally without having to hold a referendum.
  • Provide more support to FRAs looking considering merging or sharing services including one-off transitional funding.
  • Protect local government from further funding cuts and be provided with longer-term funding settlements that cover the life of a Parliament.
  • Ensure that reform to the fire and rescue service is led by local government and the emergency services sectors.

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. They have managed to avoid spending cuts impacting on critical services by moving towards a more efficient way of working while effective preventative work has resulted in a steady fall in the number of fires.

"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.

"If fire and rescue services are expected to keep playing a key role in national resilience, then they must be given the funding to do so effectively. The Government must also work with us to remove barriers to greater collaboration and mergers, to help drive innovations and by removing restrictions on setting tax levels locally."

NOTES TO EDITORS

The LGA's annual fire conference and exhibition takes place in Cardiff on Tuesday 11 and Wednesday 12 March 

A copy of the LGA's AnyFire analysis, along with the LGA's Budget Submission can be found here: 

AnyFire: The future funding outlook for fire and rescue authorities (PDF, 22 pages, 782KB)

It is based on the expenditure and funding of an average FRA and using a mix of strategies being used across the country to make savings.

AnyFire – key facts

  • AnyFire has saved money by moving to a ‘Day Crewing Plus' system with firefighters working an average of 42 hours per week; freezing recruitment and sharing blue light services command and control centre with local police and ambulance services.
  • Council tax precepts would need to be increased by more than 10 per cent every year until 2020 to allow AnyFire to balance its books.
  • Sustained annual growth of 20 per cent per year would be needed to bring AnyFire to a balanced budget by 2020.
  • AnyFire has 22 per cent fewer frontline staff than it has in 2010, a loss of approximately 100 firefighter posts. Three fire stations will have closed or merged with others and the same number will have to close by 2020.
  • Staffing salaries would have to be cut by a third by 2020 to manage funding reductions.

CONTACT

Simon Ward
Deputy Head of News and Internal Communications
Local Government Association
Tel: 020 7664 3147
Out of hours: 020 7664 3333
Email:
Simon.Ward@local.gov.uk
Local Government House, Smith Square, SW1P 3HZ
www.local.gov.uk
www.twitter.com/LGANews

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