East Sussex Fire Authority has made the decision to a raise its Council Tax to ensure that it can continue to provide vital emergency services to the communities of Brighton & Hove and East Sussex.
Despite this, there is still significant uncertainty about funding for fire services after 2022/23, as the Government has only provided a one year funding settlement and East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service is forecasting that it may still need to make considerable savings of up to £3.8m over the coming years.
The Fire Authority met today 10 February 2022 and was asked to agree the budget and an increase of 1.99% in the level of council tax it charges to local residents.
Fire Authority Chairman Roy Galley said: “Every member of the Fire Authority recognises the impact that Covid-19 and other pressures are having on our communities, our local businesses and the finances of individual households. However, we believe that this small increase in Council Tax is the best way to ensure funding to continue to serve the public and save lives now and in the future. We will continue to lobby Government for fair and sustainable funding for our life saving Fire and Rescue Services.”
To illustrate the impact, this will mean an additional £1.94 for properties in Band D for council tax and result in an annual charge of £99.37. That is £1.91 per week for a 24/7 emergency service.
In making its decision, the Fire Authority took into account responses to its 2020 Planning for a Safer Future consultation. More than 4 in 5 (83%) respondents to the questionnaire said they would be willing to pay more in council tax for their local Fire and Rescue Service.
East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service will now explore future efficiencies in a number of areas including:
- alternative ways of delivering our Community Safety activities such as education, home safety initiatives and road safety projects
- sharing services such as estates, fleet and engineering with other public sector partners
- using IT to make our processes more efficient
- reviewing our administration and management structures
- reviewing our planned investment in our estate and fleet
- reviewing operational / joint working efficiencies with other local fire services
- reviewing post-Covid ways of working
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) has previously graded the Service as Good in responding to fires and other emergencies, in responding to national risks, at making best use of resources and at making the fire and rescue service affordable now and in the future. A further inspection will be carried out in Summer 2022.
The Service will continue to invest in its people, its fleet of emergency vehicles and its IT infrastructure to improve on this. A key area of focus in is work to implement the findings of the inquiries into Grenfell and subsequent changes in the law. This will be challenging and wide ranging, and is expected to change the way the service works within the community to keep people safer.