PEOPLE in Dorset will pay £74.87 next year for the region's fire and rescue services if they live in a Band D property.

The increase of £2.17 has disappointed officials who hoped to see a £5 increase, not the 2.99 per cent allowed, as the service has suffered nearly £500,000 worth of government funding cuts in the past 12 months.

Dorset and Wiltshire chief fire Officer Ben Ansell said: “Elected members and officers had lobbied for the freedoms and flexibilities to increase the fire precept for Band D properties by £5, to help to ease budget pressures caused by the loss of central government grant funding, but the Fire and Rescue Authority was only given the opportunity to increase by 2.99 per cent, or £2.17, on last year.”

As the authority approved a budget of £55.8million for 2019-20, he said his service had already suffered ‘one of the highest funding reductions for any combined fire authority in England’.

“Despite this, we are committed to recruiting more on-call firefighters, who are so vital to our predominantly rural service, and to maintaining our commitment to prevention and protection activities,” he said.

“Whether working in schools, delivering Safe & Well visits to people in their homes, or following up on the fire safety lessons coming out of the Grenfell Tower fire, our priority remains to change and save lives.”

Cllr Spencer Flower, chairman of Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Authority, said the decision made by members continued their commitment to "maintaining this excellent service to local people".

The meeting also learned that the service's gender pay gap is running at 10.38 per cent – even though the same salary is paid to roles of equal value for all staff, regardless of gender.

The authority says its gender pay gap is below the national average and compares favourably to other fire and rescue services.

However, a meeting earlier this week was told the authority had put a number of initiatives in place to address the issue.

The new initiatives include recruitment processes to help rebalance workforce composition, apprenticeships, established training programmes for managers and staff about equality, diversity and inclusion and reviewing and improving workplace facilities for women, to help provide a welcoming and supportive environment.

Mr Ansell said the services was ‘working hard to address our pay gap’.

“We are committed to ensuring that we have a diverse workforce that fully reflects the communities we serve,” he added.