999 service assured despite fuel cost rise

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AMBULANCE services will not be affected, despite the soaring cost of fuel crippling its budget, the East of England Ambulance Service has said.

AMBULANCE services will not be affected, despite the soaring cost of fuel crippling its budget, the East of England Ambulance Service has said.With the price of a litre of unleaded petrol in the city approaching 1.20, and diesel even more expensive, ambulances, fire engines and police cars are costing more to fill up than just a few months ago.

However, residents have been assured that potentially life-saving services are not at risk.

A spokesman for the region's ambulance service said it was already 20 per cent over budget on fuel costs for this year, which is set at about 5 million.

Between January and March, the service – which covers Bedfordshire, Essex, Cambridgeshire, Peterborough, Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk – spent 1,707,000 on fuel compared with just 795,000 in the previous three months.

The service operates a fleet of 273 ambulances – each costing 120 to refuel – 215 response cars and 237 non-emergency vehicles.

A spokesman said: "We have raised the matter as a cost pressure with our commissioners, and will clearly have to make savings elsewhere if we cannot secure additional funding.

"Decisions will need to be taken in the future about savings if no further funds are forthcoming, but this will not affect emergency services provision."

Cambridgeshire police said that, currently, it was managing to cope with the rising cost, but if prices continued to rise, it might have to look at altering budget plans to keep its 480 vehicles topped up.

A spokesman said: "The rise in fuel costs has been slightly higher than we had predicted. however, we had prepared for a rise in our budget.

"At this time, it is not causing us any major problems, and it has not had an effect on any of our services.

"If the price of fuel was to increase further, we may need to re-prioritise spending."

And Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service said there was no danger of cutting the life-saving services in Peterborough, having planned for rising fuel costs.

Spokeswoman Hayley Buzzel said: "We predicted continued fuel price increases last year, and made appropriate provisions in the budget, which have carried over into this financial year.

"Therefore, costs are currently within the budget we have set for 08/09."

Last year, the fire brigade spent 383,000 on fuel, and budgeted 441,000 this year. In the first quarter of the year, it only spent 100,000 on petrol and diesel.

nFor patrol and diesel prices in the city, visit www.peterborough today.co.uk/petrolprices