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Fire chiefs approve £4.95 increase in council tax precept
3:56pm Thursday 21st February 2013 in News
FIRE chiefs have agreed to increase the fire precept, which will be passed onto Dorset's council-tax payers.
The £4.95 hike, working out at 9.5 pence a week, was approved by Dorset Fire Authority for the average band D council tax bill.
The fire authority says the small increase is essential to help protect frontline services.
However, as financial support from Whitehall is set to diminish in the coming years, there is no guarantee frontline services will be spared in the future.
In a statement following the Fire Authority decision, county fire chief Darran Gunter could only assure: “Members and officers are determined that everything possible will be done before reductions are made in frontline services.”
Explaining the precept rise, fire authority chairman Cllr Rebecca Knox said: “The authority recognises that there is a need to keep household bills as low as possible but without this small increase the fire service here in Dorset - for which we are rightly proud - would find it difficult to maintain the essential services it provides.”
Cllr Knox says even with the increase, Dorset Fire and Rescue Service (DFRS) still commands “well below” the country's average fire and rescue service precept.
DFRS has already slashed a string of support functions and senior management posts in a bid to meet forecasted savings.
Legal services, payroll and pensions management, democratic services and procurement have all been downsized or outsourced.
Mr Gunter said: “We have recently agreed the next stage of our efficiency programme which will involve examining opportunities for income generation and fuller cost recovery, further collaboration with neighbouring fire and rescue services and the benefits of shared support services alongside our ongoing efficiency savings.”
Cllr Knox explained: “While it is difficult to predict the future, the DFA knows that for the next two years the amount of grant it will receive from Government will reduce by 16 per cent.
“The Chancellor's 2012 Autumn Statement signalled further reductions of 14 per cent during 2015-17.
“Using these forecasts and assumptions, if we had decided not to increase the fire precept in 2013, and indeed for the two following years, the service's budget deficit would be in the region of £3.3m by 2016.
“Even with the small increase this year, the budget deficit could still be around £2m by 2016.”
Earlier this week Bournemouth Council leader John Beesley criticised plans for a rise, say he felt further efficiencies could and should be made.