High inflation rates and vastly increased energy bills could mean less for West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Authority to spend next year. Now the public is being asked if they would support an extra £5 average precept on their council tax bill to pay for fire service costs. This would allow the service to be able to keep its current commitments, all aimed at making West Yorkshire safer for all who live, work, and visit it.
The Authority is the publicly accountable body responsible for providing a fire and rescue service to the communities of West Yorkshire. It has two main sources of income; grants from government (which make up around 50 percent of its budget) and through local council tax (which accounts for 50 percent of its budget).
The 22 cross party members that make up the Authority board come from all five council areas – Leeds, Wakefield, Kirklees, Calderdale, and Bradford. Together they have a legal duty to set a balanced budget, which means matching income with all outgoings. Outgoings include paying staff wages, purchasing firefighting equipment, improving, or maintaining premises and paying for things like energy and fuel. Next month they will agree the fire service budget for the year ahead.
While there is no legal duty to ask for the public’s views, the Authority is keen to hear from residents ahead of setting this budget.
Chair Cllr Darren O’Donovan said: “Over the last few years we have been able to invest in our staff and services through careful financial management and planning despite the impact of austerity and the fact the Authority has not received capital funding - to pay for assets like fire stations - from the Government since 2014.
“Our prudency has allowed us to maintain equipment, invest in new technology, improve training, and modernise our buildings – making us one of the most effective and efficient fire and rescue services in the country.
“However, the current global financial pressures and the real time cuts to fire resources from this government, means we are now facing significant cost pressures. While I understand this is a difficult ask, we are making of local taxpayers, this increase would help us to maintain our services and continue to provide the excellent fire and rescue service that our community deserves.
“Clearly asking local taxpayers to help fund this is a last resort and one we have thought long and hard about. But we feel we have been left with very little choice by this government, who expect us to use this as a funding stream or make cuts to services. We will continue to work with other fire authorities to push for fairer funding streams.”
For the next two weeks until the end of the month, the Authority is asking people if they would be prepared to pay an average extra £5 per household per year to help them achieve their vision. The precept is the share of council tax that fire services get for the forthcoming 2023/2024 financial year.
Fire authorities can seek to increase their council tax precept by up to £5.00 per year for a Band D property. This would raise enough funds to enable the Authority to maintain its current level of services and meet some of the pressures it faces from inflation and rising costs.
- Band B - an increase of £3.89 per year, taking the annual precept from £56.14 to £60.03
- Band C - an increase of £4.44 per year, taking the annual precept from £64.16 to £68.60
- Band D - an increase of £5.00 per year, taking the annual precept from £72.18 to £77.18
- Band E - an increase of £6.11 per year, taking the annual precept from £88.22 to £94.33
- Band F - an increase of £7.22 per year, taking the annual precept from £104.26 to £111.48
- Band G - an increase of £8.33 per year, taking the annual precept from £120.30 to £128.63
- Band H - an increase of £10.00 per year, taking the annual precept from £144.36 to £154.36
The Fire Authority will consider its budget in February 2023 and at the meeting it will set its council tax precept. Before deciding what to do the Authority is keen to understand what people think. The survey closed on Tuesday 31 January 2023.