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Fire service charge could go up by more than 7% next year

06 Feb 2024 3 minute read
Fire engine.

Anthony Lewis Local Democracy Reporter

The amount paid by residents for fire services in south Wales could go up by more than 7% next year.

Budget proposals set to be considered by the South Wales fire authority on Monday, February 12, would see a 7.23% increase in the budget from this year with it being worth a total of £95.8m.

The report said that this increase assumes that the Welsh Government will transfer additional firefighter pension funding to constituent councils in the final local government settlement in accordance with the practice it started at this stage last year.

It added that without this funding change the underlying like-for-like increase
in the revenue budget would be 5.8%.

Cost of living impact

The fire authority said it has always been mindful of the resources available to its constituent councils both from Welsh Government and local taxpayers.

The provisional local government funding settlement announced in December included an overall 3.1% increase for Welsh councils.

The report said the impact of the cost of living crisis and problems forecasting pay and price inflation has caused significant turbulence in the last two financial years with the fire authority setting a budget significantly lower than comparable funding increases in local councils in 2022-23 and higher in 2023-24.

It said that cumulatively increases in fire budgets remain lower than the comparative levels in constituent councils over the period.

The report said that £2.5m of reserves will be committed in the current year and a further £1.2m in 2024-25.

If approved each of the 10 councils which are covered by South Wales Fire and Rescue Service would contribute these amounts:

  • Bridgend would contribute £9.08m which is a rise of £565,942 or 6.64%
  • Vale Of Glamorgan would contribute £8.3m which is a rise of £523,809 or 6.73%
  • Rhondda Cynon Taf would contribute £14.8m which is a rise of £922,933 or 6.62%
  • Merthyr Tydfil would contribute £3.6m which is a rise of £186,314 or 5.36%
  • Caerphilly would contribute £10.9m which is a rise of £572,705 or 5.52%
  • Blaenau Gwent would contribute £4.1m which is a rise of £214,331 or 5.42%
  • Torfaen would contribute £5.7m which is a rise of £366,268 or 6.77%
  • Monmouthshire would contribute £5.8m which is a rise of £367,505 or 6.72%
  • Newport would contribute £10.04m which is a rise of £802,209 or 8.68%
  • Cardiff would contribute £23.1m which is a rise of £942,746 or 9.16%

Population changes

The report said that population changes impact directly on the level of budget contributions from individual councils and that the budget assumes additional grant of £1.266m will transfer into the local government settlement.

Given the current uncertainty of the transfer the authority is being asked to delegate powers to the treasurer to vary the approved budget if for any reason additional grant funding for pensions is paid directly to the fire authority.

The capital budget would add up to £16.3m with £7.6m slippage from this year and £8.7m for next year covering things like property, fleet, and ICT.

Some of the considerations the authority has taken into account include pay inflation, pension costs, setting budgets in the absence of confirmation
of central funding for the coming year, the widening of the role of the firefighter, temporary staffing costs, and energy and external contract costs.

They’ve also considered unavoidable inflationary pressures on budgets like communication systems, ICT, operational equipment and fleet, the capital programme, capital financing costs, and over £2.05m worth of reductions which have been identified with around £250,000 worth of consequential budget increases leading to a net £1.8m budget reduction.

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