Thursday 22 February 2024
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£5 council tax increase approved by Nottinghamshire fire authority

A £5 council tax increase for all households has been approved by Nottinghamshire’s fire authority.

The rise for every taxpaying household in the city and county will generate £1.6m in extra funding and will take the annual fee to £89 per year for a Band D property.

Becky Smeathers, Treasurer to the Fire Authority, said the £5 increase was “essential in order for us to balance the budget”.

The decision was passed unanimously at the fire authority meeting on February 24.

The fire authority is a body of local councillors and other members which oversees the service’s finances and operational planning.

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It had a number of options to raise extra funding in order to cover an expected deficit of £1.3 million next year.

The authority voted through the £5 overall increase because it would raise an extra £833,000 compared to an alternative option of a 2.95 per cent rise.

The decision means the fire service has been able to halt plans to make cuts to front-line services.

Proposals revealed last year would have seen West Bridgford Fire Station have no crew on duty at all at night, and both London Road and Stockhill stations losing one fire engine each.

Public consultation on the cuts and the council tax increase ran for a 12-week period from September 2022 until December 2022 – and 80 per cent of people who responded said they supported the council tax increase.

It comes after the Government agreed fire authorities could increase council tax by up £5 for the next financial year.

Cllr Michael Payne (Lab) Chair of the Fire Authority, said the increase marked 7p per week for a band B property.

He said during the meeting:

“I think it would be remiss of this fire authority to have lobbied so hard and not make use of that flexibility in council tax.

“I absolutely understand the pressure on families and the cost of living crisis – asking for an extra 7p a week is probably asking for too much.

“I believe people have trust in the fire service and are willing to make a smaller contribution to protecting front-line services.

“It is a frustration of mine, we are still the seventh worst affected fire and rescue service in the country in terms of our reduction in core spending power.

“There’s a £1.3m deficit ahead of us next year, we are legally discharged to set a balanced budget and we will not be able to do that without making front-line service cuts unless there is an additional investment.”

Cllr Nick Raine (Lab) added: “We’re in a very bad situation economically and the finances do seem a bit precarious.

“Council tax is something I don’t agree with, it’s a deeply regressive and unfair tax.

“Putting council tax up isn’t an easy thing to do. I have to represent a lot of people who just about manage and struggle with their bills as it is.

Cllr Jonathan Wheeler (Con) said the Conservatives on the authority supported the increase.

Nottinghamshire Police and Crime Commissioner Caroline Henry (Con) said it is “always” a difficult decision to increase council tax.

She said: “Asking for the maximum precept of £5 meant that we didn’t have to make cuts to front-line services, and that was really important.

“What helped me to make the decision was that 80 per cent of the public who replied to the consultation were either strongly in the agreement or in agreement with it.

“If it has got public support, I am happy to support it too.”

•  West Bridgford Fire Station saved – a great result for Rushcliffe says MP and councillor

•  FBU members win reversal of frontline fire service cuts in West Bridgford and Nottinghamshire

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