FIRE and rescue budgets for Dorset and Wiltshire remain under pressure after cuts in some Government funding – and the ongoing need to invest in new buildings and equipment.

Despite the challenges the authority says it remains one of the best run in the country, offering better value for money for council taxpayers than many others.

The average costs for each firefighter is calculated to be 10% lower than the all-England average.

Councillors who oversee the service have been looking at the draft accounts for the 2022-23 financial year.

It tells of how some Government grants have been reduced, with increases in many areas of spending at previously unseen inflation rates, including a warning that extra funding may need to be found, possibly from reserves, to develop a new training centre at Weymouth and make changes to the other, existing,  training centre at Devizes. Costs for both projects are rising at a higher rate than initially budgeted for with expenditure first put at around £8million, but now thought likely to reach double figures.

The Weymouth move will see the service pull out of the existing training centre, a former military site, at West Moors in east Dorset.

The service net revenue budget for 2022/23 was set at £61.04m, funded by £44.83m from council tax, £3.99m from revenue support grant, £10.19m from non-domestic rates, £2.02m from other non-ringfenced grants and £1.34m net transfer from reserves.

The revenue budget for the current year is £66m.

The accounts show that although inflation has added to the costs of running the service it also helped earn additional income from investing surplus cashflows, up from £4,000 in 21-22 to £175,00 in 22-23.

The unbudgeted income more than made up for a drop in the Government Firelink grant which went down from £501,000 to £439,000 during the year.

Other grant reductions include payments to compensate for the loss of business rate income as a result of the pandemic – down from £1.16m received in 21-22 compared to £466,000 for 22-23. The reports says that although there has been an increase in business rate income during the year it is still not back to pre-pandemic levels.

Councillors are being told that the service did not take on any long-term borrowing in 22-23, but had borrowed £5m in 21-22. Its current debt level stands at £16.26m.

The report notes that the services has maintained the overall "Good" ratings for Effectiveness and People, and was judged as "Outstanding" for Efficiency, one of only three services nationally to receive the standard.

Councillors have been told that since being formed in 2016 it has delivered cashable savings of £44m with annual savings running at £9m mainly by combining the two previous services, reducing duplication, and economies of scale.

For 2022/23 the service Band D fire precept figure was £79.43 compared to a national average for combined fire authorities of £82.65. Firefighter costs per person were £22.45 compared to an all-England average of £24.51.