Dorset Fire and Rescue Service take council tax chance to protect 'essential services' (From Dorset Echo)
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Dorset Fire and Rescue Service take council tax chance to protect 'essential services'
DORSET Fire and Rescue Service has taken a ‘one off opportunity’ to increase its share of the council tax in a bid to protect ‘essential services’.
Members of the Dorset Fire Authority agreed to increase the service’s precept by £4.95 for a Band D mid range property at a meeting – taking it up to £65.34 for 2013 to 2014.
Chief fire officer Darran Gunter told the meeting that the Dorset Fire and Rescue Service was among the lowest funded fire authorities in the country and as a result had been offered the chance by the government to increase its precept by up to £5 this year without having to go out for a referendum.
He said: “It is a one off opportunity to strengthen our base.”
Mr Gunter said the authority had been working hard to reduce its debts in recent years and a savings programme that hadbeen running since 2004 has already seen the service trim its budget by £13.8million, with that figure expected to reach £29.4million by 2016.
He said, despite these efforts, financial forecasts predicted that if the authority faced a potential funding gap of around £3.5million if it did not take this opportunity to increase its precept. Mr Gunter said that the authority would be forced to look at other areas, such as operational services, to address the funding gap with the loss of 123 firefighters required to reach a figure of £3.5million.
He added that, even with the increased precept, the service still needed to look at new ways of operating in the light of continued reductions in government funding.
Mr Gunter said: “It doesn’t take away the need for us to think differently about the kind of services that we can provide in the future.”
Members of the Fire Authority were almost all in agreement with the need for the council tax rise.
Councillor Spencer Flower said: “We have got to put ourselves in a position where we can sustain the quality service that this authority offers Dorset at a very low cost with a very low government grant.”
Coun John Wilson added: “I’m very confident my residents want to feel safe in their homes and they want a good service and for the cost of £5 per year that’s what we should definitely be doing.”
The fire service’s share of the precept will increase from £60.39 to £65.34 for a Band D property, an increase of around 8.2 per cent.
After the meeting chairman of the Dorset Fire Authority Rebecca Knox said: “The Dorset Fire Authority recognises that there is a need to keep household bills as low as possible but that without this small increase of 9.5p per week, the fire and rescue service here in Dorset would find it difficult to maintain the essential services it provides.
“Even with this increase we are still well below the average fire and rescue service precept level, plus we will still face a £2million shortfall over the coming years.”
What residents will pay
Council taxes in our area (charges for a mid range Band D property):
- Dorset County Council: £1,168.29 for a band D property – no increase
- West Dorset District Council (subject to approval by full council): £124.80 on a band D property – no increase
- Weymouth and Portland Borough Council (expected to be approved by full council): increase by just under two per cent from £267.56 in 2012 to 2013 to £272.91 for 2013 to 2014 on a Band D property – an increase of £5.35.
- Dorset Police: a 1.95 per cent increase for a Band D property from £180 in 2012 to 2013 to £183.51 in 2013 to 2104 – increase of £3.51
- Dorset Fire and Rescue Service: an 8.2 per cent increase for a band D property from £60.39 for 20912 to 2013 to £65.34 in 2013 to 2014 – increase of £4.95
- Plus parish or town council precept