Fire Authority increases precept

Chief Fire Officer
Chief Fire Officer Dan Stephens (Picture: Merseyside Fire& Rescue Service)

Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority has confirmed an increase in its council tax precept of 2% for 2013-14 following four years of significant Government grant cuts.

Most taxpayers on Merseyside live in Band A properties and will see an annual increase of only 89p for their fire and rescue service (or less than 2p per week).

Merseyside’s grant cut for 2013/14 is 8.7% and a further 7.5% in 2014/15, slightly above the national average. In the previous two years Merseyside received the worst Grant settlement in the country at more than twice the national average.

The Authority has had to identify £10 million of savings over the next two years on top of the £9.2 million it made in the previous two years.

The budget cuts will come from £7 million in back office and support services and £3 million from emergency response. Fifty seven posts in support services are put at risk of redundancy and 90 firefighter posts will be lost through natural retirement rates over a three year period.

This will result in an eventual reduction of fire appliances from 42 two years ago down to 28, but all our community fire stations will be kept open. This is an overall 33% reduction in fire appliances since the Government began its’ spending reviews and will also have a significant impact on the Authority’s highly acclaimed fire prevention work.

Councillor Dave Hanratty, Chair of Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority, said: “We have made huge reductions in management costs and support service but Government has left us with no option but to cut our frontline services even further. Our firefighter numbers will reduce from 1,500 a decade ago to 760 by 2015.

“With support from our local MPs, we have lobbied hard to stop further grant cuts but Government has only partially listened.

“Our officers have put plans in place which we are confident will limit the direct impact on our services to the community but the Government can’t take more than £19 million out of our budget over the four years of the spending review and it not have an effect.”

Dan Stephens, Chief Fire Officer, said: “A 33% reduction in fire appliances will affect our emergency response and our fire prevention activities, but we will continue to identify ways of making ourselves more effective and efficient with fewer resources.

“We will be talking with our staff and communities over the coming months to explain the changes we are proposing and how we intend to minimise the effect of the cuts.”

The decisions were taken at a meeting of Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority on February 26.