Fire authorities claim they face £600 million funding gap

The LGA issued the following media release on 12 March 2013

Fire authorities will have £600 million less to spend on keeping the public safe from harm in five years compared to 2011/12, according to a new report published today.

The stark warning comes from the Local Government Association (LGA) which says that the fire service will have to undergo major reforms if the service is to be sustained.

In the ‘Fire future funding report', the LGA, which represents the 46 fire authorities in England, warns that funding for community prevention schemes is likely to suffer the most from budget cuts.

Funding reductions mean that less money will be available to the fire service for work such as testing smoke alarms as well as advising residents on safety measures and how to prevent fires.

However, research shows that over the past decade, as the amount of money spent on prevention work has increased, the number of fires and fatalities has fallen significantly.

Youth education programmes, for example, are estimated to achieve savings of £1.85 for every £1 spent by helping to reduce the number of fires set deliberately.

The warning comes as the fire industry meets for its annual conference in Brighton. Nearly 300 fire industry experts are coming together to debate the future of the service in the face of significant budget cuts.

Councillor Kay Hammond, Chairman of the LGA's Fire Services Management Committee, said:

"Fire authorities are having to make hard choices. On one hand they are faced with unprecedented cuts to their budgets, while on the other they continue to have a duty to provide the same level of fire protection to their communities as they always have.

"It's clear that something has to give and the area that is most at risk is activity such as community safety schemes. The irony is that this comes at a time when the demographics of our country are changing, with people living longer and the number of elderly and vulnerable people rising.

"Fire authorities are already doing things differently in order to manage the decline in funding and they will continue to eke out efficiencies through measures such as shared service arrangements, reducing the number of fire stations and new flexible employment practices. But it is clear that without major reforms to the service this will not be enough to sustain it in the future."

In a new report on the future of fire funding, the LGA estimates that by 2017/18 fire authorities will have £600 million less in the coffers each year compared to 2011/12.

According to analysis by the LGA, Government funding for the fire and rescue service will fall by £300 million from £1 billion in 2011/12 to £700 million in 2017/18. At the same time expenditure is expected to rise from £2.1 billion in 2011/12 to £2.4 billion in 2017/18.

As fire authorities must balance their budgets they will, by 2017/18, have to spend 30 per cent less annually compared to 2011/12. This would be equivalent to a reduction of nearly 40 per cent of the workforce.

According to the report, the cuts are already starting to bite with fire authorities reporting a drop of 7 per cent in the number of home fire safety checks carried out in 2011/12 than in the previous year.

Message Ends

Author: LGA Media Office

Contact: Alison Purdy, LGA media office, 020 7664 3333

Notes to editors

Examples of how fire authorities are making savings:

Day crewing plus
A typical day crewing plus approach involves firefighters working an average of 42 hours a week but attending for shift periods of 24 hours with 12 hours ‘at work' and 12 hours ‘on standby'. To achieve this, living accommodation is required onsite. This approach can provide significant savings but is only applicable to low-activity fire stations as a way of maintaining an efficient 24/7 capability and is not a model that could be adopted wholesale across the service.

Merging services
Devon and Somerset have led the way in terms of merging services. In the four years since the merger, the Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service has saved just over £4 million. The savings have been generated by sharing staff and the greater capacity to use resources more flexibly within the larger organisation.

Shared service arrangements
Other fire authorities have entered into shared service arrangements for many back office functions such as ICT, mobile data and training and management.

The ‘Fire future funding report' illustrates the size of the financial challenges facing fire and rescue authorities. The report can be downloaded here.

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