A fiver a year for your fire service
Council tax payers are set to be asked to pay an extra £5 a year - just 10p a week - to protect the emergency services provided by West Midlands Fire and Rescue Service.
Members of West Midlands Fire and Rescue Authority will consider a recommendation at a meeting on 18 February to increase the amount of money that councils in the region collect on the Authority’s behalf in 2013/14.
Subject to members’ agreement, it is expected that the Authority will increase its precept (its share of Council Tax) by just 10p a week or £5 a year for the average Band D council tax property.
A budget of £107m is proposed for 2013/14, £74m of which will come from the Government in the form of a grant. The rest would be raised through council tax.
WMFS provides round-the-clock emergency response from 38 fire stations across the region, dealing with fires, road traffic collisions, water rescues and major chemical incidents. A surge in incidents in the period before Christmas saw fire crews rescue more than 20 people from fires and road accidents.
The service’s fire and rescue expertise extends to its vital education and safety work, which benefits thousands of schoolchildren, residents, vulnerable community members and businesses every year.
Councillor John Edwards, Chair of West Midlands Fire and Rescue Authority, said: “Even with an average £5 extra a year from households, local people will still be making the lowest contribution anywhere in the country to their fire and rescue service. This small increase is needed because we are losing over £20 million of central government grant during the current four-year period.
“I give an absolute pledge to local tax payers that every penny of this increase will be spent on our frontline services. Our firefighter numbers will have fallen from 1,600 to 1,230 between 2011 and 2015.
“The small increase we are proposing will ensure that we keep our front line as strong as possible, keep all our fire stations open, and maintain our first class five-minute target response time to life-threatening incidents. The men and women who work for the fire and rescue service provide a world-class service for communities across our region. I hope people will agree that it’s worth an extra fiver a year to protect that.
“As a result of the meeting on 18 February there may be some targeted recruitment towards the end of the year.”
Vij Randeniya, Chief Fire Officer for the West Midlands, said: “Our firefighters and staff are continuing to rise to the challenge of unprecedented financial pressures, and are providing a service we can all be justly proud of. We have a strong record of spending wisely, and have worked extremely hard over the last few years to make huge savings to deliver a value-for-money service that provides peace of mind for people in the West Midlands.”
Media note:Issued by Neil Spencer, Senior Media Relations Officer, West Midlands Fire Service, tel 0121 380 6101. On Twitter we’re @WestMidsFire.