North Wales Fire & Rescue Authority to consult on plans for the futurePosted
Members of North Wales Fire and Rescue Authority considered future plans for the fire and rescue service at its meeting held today at Denbighshire County Council’s Chamber in Ruthin.
The Authority’s financial prospects were discussed and a wide range of options for continuing to provide affordable services for the public of North Wales were considered.
At the meeting, it was explained that it was no longer possible to continue to freeze the Fire and Rescue Authority’s budget because of general pay and price inflation, and increasing pension costs due to changes in legislation and funding mechanisms.
As a result, the Authority’s Improvement Plan Working Group has been developing a medium term budget strategy which consists of using its reserves, increasing contributions from councils, and service cuts. In doing this they considered a number of money saving options including closure of the control room, closing nine rural stations, and the removal of a whole time appliance from Wrexham Fire Station.
It was reported that the Working Group had considered all the information and options in great detail, and had come to the conclusion that the option that they intend to explore further and consult on, would be the potential removal of a whole time pump from Wrexham by the end of this decade.
Following this, a new objective for the medium term budget has been drafted – based on a four year medium term financial strategy involving a continued budget freeze for this year, an increase in contributions next year, and a freeze in budget for the next two years combined with a reduction in services.
Councillor Meirick Davies was re-elected as Chair of the Fire Authority just before the subsequent full Authority meeting which discussed the future of the fire and rescue service. He said: “This decision to reduce services in the future has not been taken lightly by Authority members, but rather on the basis of being the least damaging option.
“Members considered in great detail the question of what service reductions would support achievement of the savings target. We recognised that any service reductions beyond those already implemented will involve some risk to both the public and the Authority. We could not ignore, however, the serious financial issues that the Authority will face in the next five years and felt that we had to set risk against the available resources.
“Inevitably, reductions will have to come from reducing posts, as salaries make up 70% of the Authority’s revenue budget. Significant savings have already been generated through two restructures within the fire and rescue service and it was recognised that no further savings can be found in this way. Furthermore, the budget for support staff has also been reduced significantly despite an increasing pressure on capacity as a result of changes in regulation and legislation.
“Reluctantly, therefore, we concluded that the only area of the budget where savings of the required magnitude could be found was in operational services. We took into account a detailed analysis of information on all aspects of operational activity – including working methods, crewing systems and workforce deployment.
“After careful consideration it was decided that we will consult on the proposed budget strategy which includes the potential removal of a whole time pump from Wrexham by the end of this decade. We look forward to hearing people’s views during the consultation, which will take place in the Autumn.”