Taxpayers may have to dig deeper and pay more in council tax for fire cover

TAXPAYERS in 1066 Country could be paying more in their council tax this year towards fire services in the county.

East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service has set out proposals for its budget as changes in funding impact on its finances.

The county’s Fire Authority is considering a range of options which include accepting the Government’s one per cent Freeze Grant or increasing its precept of the council tax by up to 1.94 per cent in 2014/15.

It has to make more than £7 million in savings over the next five years. The current budget for the authority is £39.1 million.

At the moment residents living in a Band D property pay £81.86 worth of council tax towards fire services. If the rate increases the figure will be £83.45.

The authority’s chairman, Phil Howson, said: “We are heavily reliant on both council tax and Government grants for our funding. The Government is significantly reducing the grant we receive and encouraging us not to increase council tax.

“The Fire Authority has to balance our determination to provide a high performing service with the reality of a shrinking budget.

“As Fire Authority members, we have a statutory duty and a legal responsibility for more than 800,000 people that live in East Sussex and Brighton and Hove.”

Des Prichard, chief fire officer and chief executive, said: “We are looking at how we best use our resources as part of our annual planning work. The reality is that change is inevitable, not only because of the financial situation but because the needs and risks in the community are different. For example the number of incidents we attend has dropped – in part due to the hard work of our staff. We are in a strong place to meet the challenges ahead, and we do have a period of time to implement change. We want to hear from the public we serve about our proposals.”

“I guarantee that we have no plans to close fire stations in the coming year but we are facing tough decisions over our future due to a shrinking budget. Last July, we identified a need to make savings of £7.1 million over the next five years.

“A series of proposals will be considered by the Fire Authority in February, with a public consultation planned. It is estimated that if all these proposals go ahead, there will be a reduction of between 50 and 80 posts by 2018/19.”