West Midlands Fire and Rescue Authority sets 2023/24 budget

For Band D Council taxpayers in the West Midlands, the 2023/24 budget charges remain amongst the lowest fire service charges in England.

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Published on 14 February 2023

Budget set out for the year ahead

Band D Council Tax payers in the West Midlands will pay less than 10p a week extra for their fire and rescue service in 2023/24.

At £73.02 for the year, it will remain amongst the lowest fire service charges in England.

The increase was approved by members of West Midlands Fire and Rescue Authority (WMFRA) when they agreed their budget for 2023/24 on 13 February. View the meeting documents and full report on our Committee Management Information Service portal.

It means that Council Tax payers across the West Midlands conurbation will contribute £54m of the £119m needed to fund West Midlands Fire Service (WMFS) in the financial year ahead. The rest will come from the Government and a share of West Midlands business rates.

A report to the WMFRA meeting warned of ‘ongoing budget uncertainties’, including pay awards and general inflationary pressures arising from the rising costs of living that have ‘significant funding implications’.

Members were told that WMFRA’s funding allocation for 2023/24 is higher in cash terms than that of 2022/23, but a high level of caution still needed to be applied to future financial years as the funding position remained ‘volatile’ for the fire and rescue sector.

This is also the fourth year in a row that fire and rescue services have received only a one-year financial settlement, leaving budgets unclear beyond 2023/24.

British pound notes and change

National inspectors recently graded WMFS as ‘outstanding’ in its overall effectiveness, including its emergency response and understanding of fire and other risks. It is the only fire and rescue service in England to be classed as outstanding for its 999 work.

And His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) highlighted how WMFS uses its resources to deliver value for money to its communities.

Wayne Brown, Chief Fire Officer, said: “Our three ‘outstanding’ assessments from HMICFRS are testament to the hard work of staff across West Midlands Fire Service and their daily dedication to making our communities safer, stronger and healthier.

“Our Community Risk Management Plan drives our prevention, protection and response activities, which continues to see us strive to reduce risk and vulnerability in our communities. It is an ever-evolving, risk-based plan which keeps our communities’ needs at its heart.

“For a large and complex organisation, having the ability to plan ahead financially is crucial. A single-year Government funding settlement denies us this opportunity, and does not allow us to fund major building projects or vehicles – all crucial for the sustainability and evolution of a 21st century fire service.

“Multi-year financial settlements would enable us to fully utilise taxpayers’ money in the development of our medium-term planning process. This would enable us to be even more efficient and effective when considering emerging and ever-changing risks.”

Councillor Greg Brackenridge, Chair of WMFRA, said: “I would like to recognise the efforts of all personnel at WMFS for their hard work and dedication, particularly during the challenges of COVID. Our committed and highly professional frontline and support staff provide an outstanding service to the communities of the West Midlands and will strive for continual improvements in all areas.

“WMFS will still be one of the lowest precept fire services in the country after the 2023 increase. These funds will assist us in maintaining and improving the outstanding standards of service the community receives.”