CFOA is concerned that local emergency fire and rescue services across the country face further significant budget cuts in the provisional Local Government Finance Settlement announced yesterday. The headline figures show that central government funding to stand-alone fire and rescue authorities will fall in cash terms by an average of 22% in the next four years. This is on top of an average funding cut of 22% (in real terms) since 2010 and concern expressed in the recent independent watchdog report by the National Audit Office report on the financial sustainability of Fire and Rescue Services, which stated that ‘capacity to respond to major incidents might be compromised by further funding reductions.’
The CFOA Presidential team met yesterday with the Department of Communities and Local Government and the Local Government Association to discuss the settlement. As you can imagine we are still in the early stages of understanding the specifics of the settlement including the assumptions DCLG have used to offset the grant reductions with increased income from business rates and council tax. We will be scrutinising it closely and will seek further discussions with Ministers and the Department in the near future.
CFOA President Paul Hancock made it clear in his evidence to the Public Accounts Committee two weeks ago that there will be an inevitable impact upon local and national resilience of further budget cuts of this magnitude.
Speaking today Paul said;
“Although the services have been making efficiencies in both non-frontline and frontline services, including reducing the number of senior managers, changing shift patterns and changing the way they work through increased collaboration with other services such as health and police, there is a fast approaching limit to what can be achieved without a more direct and visible impact on local, and by extension national resilience.”
The recent flooding in Cumbria and more broadly across the north of the UK saw fire and rescue services at their very best. CFOA played a pivotal role in the coordination of a huge number of resources, the majority of which are not given specific funding as National Resilience Assets. All these, and the expertise and resources used to advise, plan and coordinate the response could be impacted by these further significant cuts.
Fire and rescue services will continue to do all they can to provide the high quality emergency services that the public expect and deserve. Despite the funding reductions CFOA will continue to support fire and rescue services so that they can maintain a safe, effective and trusted emergency response alongside their vital prevention and protection work that helps build safer and healthier communities.