Katy Griffin , Reporter
Thursday, January 10, 2013
Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service sets out proposals following a reduction in its government grant.
There will be no fire station closures, compulsory redundancies or removal of pumps under proposals being put forward by Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service after its funding was slashed by the Government.
The service today (Thursday) announced proposals to save £5.5million as a result of the reduced grant settlement for the next two years. It has been cut by 10.3 per cent in 2013 and by a further 7.3 per cent in 2014.
This will mean the service will lose £3.4million in the next financial year and a further £2.1million the year after.
Both the chairman of the fire and rescue authority, Councillor Mike Healey, and Chief Fire Officer Lee Howells expressed their disappointment at the settlement, which sees the service now receiving the third worst grant settlement when it previously received the third best.
Mr Howells said: “The grant reductions for our service were harsher than we would have liked.
“This means that we will need to manage that we will need to manage our service with approximately £5.5m less each year and won’t be able to operate in the way in which we currently do.
“However, at this stage, we do not plan on closing fire stations, removing fire engines or making staff compulsorily redundant.”
The fire service has met with MPs to raise concerns regarding the settlement and the impact it is likely to have.
In 2012-13 the grant funding was £32.6m which drops to £29.2m for 2013-14 and again to £27.1m for 2014-15.
Mr Howells said: “I am confident the changes that we have outlined, subject to full public consultation, will strike a balance between needing to make savings and also maintaining and improving public safety.
“Whilst the financial assessment is challenging we are confident that the arrangements we are putting into place will not have a detrimental affect on public safety in these two years.”
“Fires have fallen by 50 per cent over the last 10 years as a result of prevention approaches. Fire deaths are the lowest level recorded in recent memory.”
Proposals include increasing prevention work in the community, introducing more light rescue pumps, reducing staff numbers through natural turnover and changing the status of some fire engines from wholetime to retained crewing.
The proposals will be discussed at a meeting of the Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Authority on January 18 where it will decide if they should go out to public consultation.
Further government grant reductions are expected for 2015-2018. The fire services planning modelling forecasts further significant reductions by 2017, possibly £11m.
Members of the public are urged to voice their views when the public consultation process begins.