Wednesday 21 February 2024
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Notts Fire forecasts £1m budget gap and fears more cuts without higher council tax

Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service says cuts could be on the cards if the authority cannot increase council tax by the maximum £5 per year.

Council tax for the Fire Authority, which organises funding for the service, is currently £89.57 annually for a Band D property in Nottinghamshire.

But the fire authority says a council tax increase will be needed next year in order to balance the budget.

At the Nottinghamshire Fire Authority meeting on December 15, councillors and members approved a new financial strategy.

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Mark Stilwell, Fire Brigades’ Union East Midlands Regional Secretary, said more planned cuts would be an “awful position” after other plans for reductions were reversed earlier this year.

Earlier proposals could have seen West Bridgford Fire Station have no crew on duty overnight and both London Road and Stockhill stations were both set to lose one fire engine each. But these cuts were reversed in February 2023.

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A 2.95 per cent increase would raise council tax by £2.64 to £92.21 per year and a £5 increase would raise it to £94.57 – equivalent to £1.81 per week.

During the Autumn statement, the Government set out that councils and fire authorities will be able to increase council tax by three per cent without the need for a referendum in 2024/25.

Fire authorities must balance their budgets but Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service is currently predicting a shortfall of £1.1m for 2024/25 and £1.8m for 2025/26.

The Government is set to confirm funding settlements, including for Nottinghamshire Fire Authority, next week.

Cllr Michael Payne (Lab) chair of the authority said: “At the moment we are in a position where we understand from the government that we are not going to get the £5 flexibility, which is deeply frustrating and a massive missed opportunity.

“If there isn’t a change of heart by the government it leaves it leaves a significant gap in the medium term financial plan.

“That is likely to mean frontline service cuts back on the table. We haven’t got a magic money tree.

“I understand families are feeling the pressure.”

Mark Kimberley, Treasurer to the Authority, said there will be some “difficult decisions to be made”.

He said: “We’re unlikely to have a £5 increase from what we know from Government.

“All the options look like we have a deficit compared to our means.

“In the general reserve, there is some scope to help balance the budget but it is very limited.”

Cllr Tom Hollis (Ind) said: “Even in the worse case scenario we’re anticipating to raise council tax.

“I assume it is taken as a given that the authority will raise by the maximum.”

Cllr Payne said: “A decision hasn’t been made – there will be a debate about it in the budget.

“I hope we can get to a position where we’ve got political consensus.

“It’s an emergency service that covers the city and county.”

Speaking after the meeting, Fire Brigades’ Union East Midlands Regional Secretary Mark Stilwell said: “It seems like we’re in this position every year.

“I am disappointed that the government is not supporting us with allowing the £5 increase.

“My view is we have got reserves that we can use to offset any cuts.

“To look at cuts now would be awful positon.

“It would reduce responses times. People aren’t going to get a fire engine as quick as they did before any cuts.”

During a seperate part of the same meeting, Mick Sharman was appointed as Assistant Chief Fire Officer, replacing Candida Brudenell.

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