Small precept rise will bring stability for future challenges

Councillors have agreed a small increase in the charge for fire and rescue services in West Yorkshire.

The precept will rise by 1.99 per cent, which equates to around 2p extra per week for the average council tax payer.

The small rise will enable West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Authority (WYFRA) to balance the books and provide added financial stability for future years. This is in spite of the fact the Authority will see a further loss of £3.29m of grant in 2017/18 as part of its four-year Central Government settlement, which will see an overall grand reduction of £7.9m by 2019/20.

In order to balance the budget, the Authority has identified savings of £1.2m and will use £0.95m of reserves.

The new budget will enable the Authority to start the recruitment of wholetime firefighters in 2017/18 for the first time in nine years. The Authority continues to reform the way it delivers a service, with the opening of a new fire station in Valley Road, Shipley, later this year to replace the old Shipley and Idle fire stations.

WYFRA remains one of the lowest ‘cost per head of population’ fire authorities in the country.

Councillor Judith Hughes, Chair of the Authority, said: “2017/2018 is a significant year for West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service, with the appointment of the new Chief Fire Officer and recommencement of wholetime firefighter recruitment. This small increase in precept has allowed the Authority to balance the budget in the current year and provided additional financial stability for future years. Despite this increase, the Authority remains one of the lowest cost per head of population fire authorities in the country.”

Chief Fire Officer John Roberts said: “I have taken over a service which has gone through major reshaping over the last eight years. We have seen significant reductions in firefighter numbers, however the job is not complete and further savings are needed over the next three years. The reintroduction of recruitment is a positive step forward, but I fully recognise that there are many challenges ahead.”