Cambridgeshire residents are being asked whether they would be willing to pay an extra £2 council tax per year to fund the county’s fire and rescue service.
Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Fire Authority has launched a consultation to ask residents if they would support up to a three per cent increase to the fire service’s proportion of council tax for 2018/19, equating to an extra £2.01 a year for a Band D property.
The consultation comes just two weeks after Cambridgeshire police and crime commissioner Jason Ablewhite launched a similar consultation, asking residents if they were willing to pay an extra £1 per month in their council tax to provide funding for Cambridgeshire police.
The fire authority said it is planning to improve facilities and training for fire crews if the three per cent rise is given the go ahead.
A two per cent increase in council tax (an additional £1.34 for a band D property) will enable the Authority to maintain the current level of service and safeguard the frontline next year. However, the Service wishes to improve its training programme for firefighters, particularly probationers, and deliver training in a more effective way to meet the challenges the Service now faces.
The Service anticipates that over the next five years it will need to recruit around 70 new firefighters to replace those likely to leave through retirement or other reasons.
Chairman of the Fire Authority Kevin Reynolds said: “The average number of incidents our firefighters attend has reduced significantly over the last ten years. Although this is great news in terms of public safety, and something we are proud of with our efforts to prevent fires from happening in the first place, it has a negative knock on affect as our firefighters do not get the same operational experience as they once used to. Therefore they are becoming more and more reliant on training to maintain the skills.
“With the challenge ahead to recruit around 70 new firefighters in five years, we would like to improve the way we continue to train newly qualified firefighters and maintain the skills of experienced firefighters. To do this we need to invest in our training programme and facilities.”
Kevin added: “We are one of the lowest cost fire and rescue services in the country and continuously review what we do to save money, become more efficient and improve our service. All areas of our Service have been scrutinised over the last few years to drive out savings and therefore, it is now more challenging to make further cuts or find money from somewhere to fund improvements, without having to take anything away from our frontline services.
“By increasing our proportion of the council tax by a small amount, we can continue to maintain frontline services as well as improve training to ensure our firefighters have the right skills and experience to deal with the huge range of incidents we attend.”
Increasing the council tax by two per cent will provide the Fire Authority with an additional £375k and by three per cent, an additional £562k.
To have your say on the proposed fire service council tax increase, please complete the simple, one question survey which can be found at: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/counciltax2018