FIRE chiefs have approved a four pence per week rise in the fire precept element of council tax.

At their meeting on Friday, Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Authority approved a budget of £54.526 million for 2018-19.

The rise for the year starting on April 1 will affect Band D properties in Bournemouth, Poole and Dorset, with an annual fire precept of £72.70 for the fire and rescue service.

Chief Fire Officer Ben Ansell said: “Members have approved a fire precept Band D that is still well below the national average, and we also this year received another large funding reduction, as the government has granted us 5.8% less than last year. Despite that, we are investing even more in our on-call firefighters, who are so essential to maintaining fire cover in our predominantly rural areas.

“Alongside this, we are completely committed to our prevention and protection activities, targeting those most at risk at home, at work or on the roads, and we will continue working with all our partners, with a focus this year on the new Safety Centre, more Salamander courses, the Safe Drive Stay Alive programme for schools and the military.”

The authority also approved proposals to establish revised governance arrangements which will save up to £38k per year in members' allowances and provide a more streamlined approach to strategic decision-making.

Cllr Spencer Flower, chairman of Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Authority, said: “We deliver so much to our local communities, from a 24/7 emergency response to an ever-increasing range of personal and business safety activities, and we are as committed as ever to ensuring this continues.”

The authority also received a paper and presentation on the gender pay gap within the fire and rescue service. Current analysis indicates a mean gender pay gap of 7% and a median gender pay gap of 11.9%.

The authority says this could be explained by the disproportionate number of male staff to female in operational roles, and the number of males in senior and middle management positions.

Initiatives to help bridge the gap have been put in place including new recruitment processes, improved workplace facilities for women, and apprenticeships.

Mr Ansell said: “We are committed to ensuring we have a diverse workforce that reflects the communities we serve.”