West Yorkshire's Chief Fire Officer warns MPs about impact of government cuts
Wakefield MP Mary Creagh met with West Yorkshire’s Chief Fire Officer Simon Pilling on Wednesday 8th June to talk about the impact of the government’s funding cuts to fire and rescue services in Wakefield and the region.
The Chief Fire Officer asked for Mary’s support for a better deal from the Conservative-led government. The government has cut West Yorkshire’s grant by £5.3m this year – a 9% reduction – more than double the cut of authorities like Hampshire and Cheshire - with a further £10m to £15m cut potentially on the cards for 2013/14 and 2014/15.
Mary Creagh said “The government's cuts to West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue service show we are not all in this together. My concern is that lives will be put at risk unless the government listens to what Fire Authorities are telling them. Funding decisions need to be based on fairness and transparency. Fire Authorities need continuity but the government proposals are a mess. I will be doing everything I can to support firefighters in Wakefield, Ossett and across the region.”
Chief Fire Officer Simon Pilling said “The Fire and Rescue Service is facing huge challenges due to government funding cuts. Fire cover proposals are being drawn up to present to Fire Authority elected members in the coming weeks.
“The key issue I discussed with Mary is the unfairness of grant distribution, which has penalised the Metropolitan authorities more than any other across the next two years.
We are emphasising that should that occur again for the following two years the impact on front-line service provision will be severe to say the least.”
The West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Authority is the fourth largest in the country and provides fire and rescue services to a population of over 2.1 million covering Wakefield, Leeds, Bradford, Kirklees, and Calderdale.
It employs nearly 1600 full time firefighters plus 199 retained firefighters and 265 non operational support staff
Fire and Rescue services are financed through the Local Government Finance System by the Department for Communities and Local Government
The cuts to fire authority grants have been back loaded meaning that there will be larger cuts in the last two years of the period. Allocations to individual authorities have yet to be made for the final two years of the spending review period.
Some Fire Authority funding comes from a Council Tax precept. The government wants precept rises to trigger a referendum. West Yorks Fire Authority estimates that a referendum could cost it £2m – a disproportionate cost, wasting money, increasing bureaucracy and diverting resources away from the frontline.
The Fire Authority received a capital grant reduction this year. They need to invest £20m over the next few years and require certainty that the level of capital grant will be maintained, rather than an annual bidding process. The government’s plans provide no certainty for the future so fire authorities cannot carry out any long range resource planning
Chief Fire Officer Simon Pilling and the West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Authority are asking the government to reconsider the cuts because of the huge impact they will have on frontline fire and rescue services. For more information contact Chief Finance Officer Geoff Maren on 01274 655711