Fire service will not bid for extra tax

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FIRE chiefs have opted against asking for a larger share of council tax payments - despite the Government reducing the county’s firefighting budget by £3 million.

South Yorkshire Fire Authority has agreed to keep its council tax share at the same level as 2010, which means it will receive £60.17 a year from Band D property owners.

When members set the fire service budget for the next 12 months they opted against making local residents pay for Government funding cuts which will see the fire service lose £12 million over the next four years.

The fire service will have £56.6 million to spend.

Almost two thirds of the fire service budget is provided by Government grants, meaning changes to the way services are delivered will be “inevitable”, members heard.

Cost-cutting measures already being implemented include a planned reduction in the number of senior managers from five to four when Chief Fire Officer Mark Smitherman retires at the end of next month.

The fire service is also looking at cutting administrative costs by 25 per cent.

With staffing costs accounting for the majority of the budget, roles madvacant through natural wastage - including retirement and people moving to take up new jobs - will not be filled.

Councillor Jim Andrews, chairman of South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Authority, said: “The scale of the financial reductions brought about by last year’s Comprehensive Spending Review are unprecedented, and the tightly prescribed timescale over which they are to be achieved is a major challenge.

“We believe the financial plan for the next two years is viable but services will need to be organised in different ways – that is inevitable.

“However, efficiency savings as well as a budget underspend last year mean our reserves are fairly healthy and we can draw on those to help protect frontline services as well as prevent a council tax rise for this year.

“The picture beyond that is both challenging and uncertain.”

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