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Fire authority agrees budget

pound coins

Band D Council Tax payers in the West Midlands will pay just £1.23 a year extra for their fire and rescue service. At £63.04 a year, it’s the lowest fire service charge in England.

The 1.99% increase was approved (15 February) by members of West Midlands Fire and Rescue Authority (WMFRA) when they agreed their budget for 2021-22. Please click here to read the full report.

It means that council tax payers across the West Midlands conurbation will pay £45m of the £101.7m needed to fund West Midlands Fire Service in 2021-22. The remainder will come from the Government.

But WMFRA members were warned in a report to their meeting today that fire and rescue services face a ‘volatile’ financial environment beyond 2021-22, with continuing uncertainty about how far ahead their Government funding will be allocated.

Chief Fire Officer, Phil Loach, said: “The way in which our staff have responded to the pandemic, continuing to provide our core services and supporting our most vulnerable residents, has been described as ‘impressive’ by our national inspectorate. They deserve all credit for it.

“As we look ahead to what we hope will be a much happier and comforting year for our communities, we have been able to set a balanced budget for 2021-22. However, beyond then, pound signs start to morph into question marks.

“Significant questions hang over how we will be able to continue our track record of identifying and reducing risk across the West Midlands, whilst delivering services our communities trust and value so highly.

“The firefighters who crew our 41 fire engines and 19 Brigade Response Vehicles aim to get to serious incidents in high-risk areas in just five minutes.

“We use a dynamic, scalable model to keep those vehicles crewed and ready to respond when our communities need us. It’s a model we’re keen to maintain in the medium term. Longer-term, the picture is far less certain.

“We are looking to a future with many financial unknowns. These still include who will meet the costs of firefighters’ pensions. We also need to be prepared for potential funding reductions beyond 2022/23 as a consequence of the pandemic amongst other things.

“In the absence of specific funding for ‘capital’ projects, such as building works, we must use ear-marked reserves, but this money will soon run dry and we will need to keep a very clear focus on that.

“This year, again, we only know what money we will be getting from the Government for the one financial year ahead. Multi-year settlements, aligned to longer-term planning, are a far more effective way of managing resources.”

Councillor Greg Brackenridge, Chair of WMFRA, said: “The firefighters and staff of West Midlands Fire Service do a fantastic job in keeping our communities safe. They have been rightly praised for their amazing work during the pandemic.

“We have had some welcome extra money to help meet the extra costs associated with COVID-19, but it will run out before the pressures of the pandemic go away.

“Our Government funding settlement for 2021/22 is in line with what was expected. However, it is only for one year and we urgently need clarity and security about our future funding.

“I know that the leaders of councils here in the West Midlands unanimously support us having more flexibility in terms of the money we are allowed to raise via council tax. It wouldn’t come close to covering the budget reductions we’ve had to manage in recent years, but it would help.

“Beyond 2022, having such financial flexibility will be even more critical, and I am calling on ministers to make it a reality.”

New Urban Search and Rescue Dog

Search and Rescue dog Luna being trained by handler Mick

Luna has landed!

West Midlands Fire Service has welcomed a paw-some new colleague to the Technical Rescue Unit (TRU).

One-year-old Luna, a Belgian Malinois, has joined the fire service family and em‘bark’ed on her specialist training to become an Urban Search and Rescue Dog. Continue Reading

Our Accounts – Audit Notice

Documents with figures, and an iPad with graphs and charts
Documents with figures, and an iPad with graphs and charts

WEST MIDLANDS FIRE AND RESCUE AUTHORITY

EXTERNAL AUDIT OF ACCOUNTS: YEAR ENDED 31 MARCH 2020

Publication of West Midlands Fire and Rescue Authority Statement of Accounts and Audit Opinion

The Accounts and Audit (England) Regulations 2015 – Regulation 10

As Amended By

The Accounts and Audit (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020

The audit of the draft statement of accounts for the year ended 31 March 2020 for West Midlands Fire and Rescue Authority has not yet been completed by the external auditors, Grant Thornton UK LLP. The Accounts and Audit (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 require that the audited accounts and opinion is published by 30 November 2020.

The delay has arisen due to a combination of factors, comprising the following:

  • the impact of Covid-19 on both the complexity of the audit and pace at which it can be completed;
  • the increased assurance work that auditors are required to carry out nationally with respect to asset valuations.

The audit and issue of the audit opinion is expected to conclude during March 2021 after which the statement of accounts and audit opinion will be published as soon as is reasonably practicable.

Therefore, this notice of delayed audit is being published in accordance with Regulation 10, paragraph (2a) of the Accounts and Audit Regulations 2015. See attached link:

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2015/234/regulation/10/made

WMFS supports vaccinations drive

Representatives of St John Ambulance and WMFS in a classroom

Staff from West Midlands Fire Service (WMFS) have joined the fight against the pandemic by volunteering with St John Ambulance to help deliver the NHS COVID-19 vaccination programme.

Some 140 volunteers from WMFS had their first training over the weekend (23-24 Jan), and will soon be joining vaccination teams at Birmingham’s Millennium Point and Bromsgrove’s Artrix Centre.

A member of WMFS staff is yrai8ned on how to administer a vaccination

It comes after fire and rescue services nationwide redoubled their efforts to help protect their communities. The National Fire Chiefs Council said the sector stood ‘shoulder to shoulder’ with colleagues in the health and care sector in the fight against COVID-19.

Phil Loach, Chief Fire Officer of West Midlands Fire Service, said: “We are both proud and excited to be piloting fire and rescue services’ involvement in St John Ambulance’s delivery of the NHS vaccination programme.

“This is the latest example of how our staff have proved they are ready, willing and able to help our communities find a way out of this dreadful pandemic. Yet again, they will be making a real and meaningful difference.

WMFS staff in a large classroom having vaccination training

“Supporting the health and wellbeing of our staff has been in even sharper focus since the start of the pandemic, so they can continue to deliver our critical services and protect the most vulnerable in the West Midlands.

“We have also been determined to play whatever part we can in working with our partners to support our communities and limit the spread of COVID-19. This has included the delivery of more than 7,000 food and medical parcels to vulnerable residents, inter-agency support with the fitting of face masks and, very sadly, the movement of the bodies of some virus victims.

“Colleagues who have already volunteered to support the vaccination programme typify the spirit I have seen time and time again throughout our service during this immensely challenging period.”

A volunteer from WMFS practises how to give a vaccination with a colleague

The charity will train WMFS personnel to become St John volunteer vaccinators, care volunteers and patient advocates. The NHS-approved training will be a blend of online and COVID-secure face-to-face sessions. A further 100 WMFS staff are due to join the programme this week.

St John Ambulance Chief Operating Officer Richard Lee said: “We’re absolutely delighted and very grateful to have our fire service colleagues joining us on the frontline of the fight against COVID-19.

“We’re currently in the process of training up tens of thousands of vaccination volunteers and many have already started delivering the vaccine as well as supporting people both immediately before and after they receive it.

“This is the biggest challenge we’ve ever undertaken in peacetime and we’re rising to it with the support of so many partner organisations which are stepping up to the plate as we join in this collective effort to help get the nation back on its feet.”

Councillor Greg Brackenridge, Chair of West Midlands Fire and Rescue Authority, said: “It is fantastic that West Midlands Fire Service is ready to support the NHS St John Ambulance in this way. The authority is extremely proud of the outstanding service and selflessness demonstrated by WMFS staff throughout the pandemic. This is the latest in a number of additional activities they have undertaken, which help to bring hope and reassurance to so many people in our communities.”

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