Avon Fire Authority Chair hits out at ‘unfair and unacceptable’ cuts

The Chair of Avon Fire Authority has expressed his dismay following the announcement of the Government cuts facing Avon Fire & Rescue Service (AF&RS) next year.

On Monday the service was told that in 2011 / 2012 it would face a reduction in its Government grant of 9.4%, approximately £2.3million, while some fire and rescue services would actually receive an increase in their grants.

In a joint letter to the Fire Minister Bob Neill MP, the Chair of Avon Fire Authority, Councillor Terry Walker and the Chief Fire Officer, Kevin Pearson, expressed their objections to the formula used to calculate how much each fire and rescue service receives from the Government.

Avon Fire Authority, which runs AF&RS receives half of its annual budget from the Department for Communities and Local Government (CLG). In October’s Comprehensive Spending Review it was announced that over the next four years fire and rescue services would face a 25% reduction in that funding. All fire and rescue services were also told the most severe cuts would come in the final two years, to allow time for efficiencies to be made.

But this week it was revealed that the formula used left AF&RS as one of the worst off, with a cut next year of 9.4%. The same formula will see some services receive increases in their grants.

Councillor Terry Walker, Chair of Avon Fire Authority, said: “We fully appreciate that Avon Fire & Rescue Service has to play its part in reducing the national deficit, but the level of cuts we are facing next year in Avon are unfair and unacceptable, particularly in view of the fact that some fire and rescue services will actually see an increased budget next year.

“The Prime Minister has stated ‘we are all in this together’, the Secretary of State at CLG has said the cuts would be ‘fair and progressive’ and the Fire Minister has told us fire service cuts would be ‘back-loaded’, but none of these appear to be the case.”

Avon Fire & Rescue Service receives funding from two main sources – central Government and Council Tax. If the revenue generated by Council Tax remains equal, AF&RS would need to find £2.3 million worth of savings to balance its books, or up to £2.8 million when inflation is considered.

Kevin Pearson, Chief Fire Officer at AF&RS said: “The savings we are being asked to make in just one year are far greater than anything we were expecting. Cutting £2.3 million from our budget in a year will have a massive impact, and force us to look at all areas of the service.

“The formula unfairly penalises AF&RS and myself and the Chair will be seeking an urgent meeting with the Fire Minister. We will be lobbying for equal cuts to be made to all fire and rescue services, rather than some being expected to suffer far more than others.”