Fire service to consult on plan to raise taxes

PUBLISHED: 16:30 24 January 2018

Fire Authority chairman Councillor Kevin Reynolds and assistant chief fire officer Rick Hylton

Fire Authority chairman Councillor Kevin Reynolds and assistant chief fire officer Rick Hylton

Archant

Householders are being asked if they are prepared to pay up to three per cent more to fund firefighters.

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Fire Authority has launched a consultation exercise asking if residents would be willing to pay an additional £2.01 a year Council Tax on the average Band D property.

The authority said it needs to recruit about 70 new firefighters over the coming five years to replace those likely to leave and has already had to make savings of £6 million in cuts.

A two per cent rise - equivalent to £1.34 for a Band D property - would enable the authority to safeguard the frontline service next year, but it wants to improve training and is asking residents if they will stump up an additional one per cent.

Cambridgeshire police and crime commissioner Jason Ablewhite has already asked how much more householders are prepared to pay for their policing.

Chairman of the fire authority, Councillor Kevin Reynolds said: “The average number of incidents our firefighters attend has reduced significantly over the last 10 years. Although this is great news in terms of public safety, and something we are proud of with our efforts to prevent fires from happening in the first place, it has a negative knock-on effect as our firefighters do not get the same operational experience as they once used to. Therefore they are becoming more and more reliant on training to maintain the skills.

“With the challenge ahead to recruit about 70 new firefighters in five years, we would like to improve the way we continue to train newly-qualified firefighters and maintain the skills of experienced firefighters. To do this we need to invest in our training programme and facilities.”

Cllr Reynolds said: “We are one of the lowest-cost fire and rescue services in the country and continuously review what we do to save money, become more efficient and improve our service. All areas of our service have been scrutinised over the last few years to drive out savings and therefore, it is now more challenging to make further cuts or find money from somewhere to fund improvements, without having to take anything away from our frontline services.”

A two per cent rise would bring in an extra £375,000 and three per cent £562,000, with fire service charges being added to county, district and parish council charges as well as the police tax.

The survey can be found at: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/counciltax2018.

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