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Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Authority

Below is a briefing sent to MPs by Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Authority relating to local government funding, which shows they have fallen from the third best to the third lowest funded authority.

Briefing Note For MPs – 3rd October 2013

The Local Government Finance Settlement in December 2012 announced a reduction of 17% in Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Authority (DSFRA) grant by 2014-15, equivalent to £5.5m cash reduction in base funding. This represents the 3rd lowest settlement for fire and rescue authorities in England and a swing from us having the 3rd best settlement previously. This is despite the inclusion for the first time of population sparsity within the fire formula. The 2013 Budget announced that Local Government Department Expenditure Limit (DEL) will be reduced by an additional 1% in 2014-15. The Spending Round announcement in July indicated a further 10% real terms cut in overall funding for local government in 2015-16. Based upon these latest announcements it is estimated that DSFRA will require on-going savings of £8m by 2015-16, over 2012-13. Our revenue budget is circa £77m an annual budget reduction of 10.3%.

The consultation document “Local Government Finance Settlement 2014-15 and 2015-16 – Technical Document” issued in July has provided some further clarity as to how the additional savings in 2014-15 and 2015-16 are to be applied. DSFRA has submitted a response to the CLG to provide answers to the technical questions, as they impact on fire and rescue authorities, but also to provide some more general concerns over the settlements. Below are the key concerns raised in our response.

  1. We have a very good relationship with the Minister and with Senior Civil Service Officials from DCLG, however, we are concerned that the funding pressures Devon & Somerset faces may not be fully recognised in future spending allocations.
  2. The consultation document confirms that there will be a 10% real terms cut in total local government funding in 2015-16. We are very concerned that the 10% reduction in Fire grant in 2015-16 will be applied evenly across FRAs, which again would result in a disproportionate impact to the most rural areas who, because of their reliance on the Retained Duty System, have only a limited capacity to generate the scale of savings required. We ask that the Minister applies a different methodology which recognises that the more urban areas, which are predominantly covered by 24/7 wholetime arrangements, have a much larger capacity to deliver the level of savings required.
  3. We are disappointed that local authorities, including fire authorities, are once again expected to suffer a disproportionate level of cuts when compared to other government departments.
  4. We have provided the Fire Minister with a copy of a report from CIPFA “Impact of Government Funding on Rural Fire and Rescue Authorities” commissioned by DSFRA earlier this year. This was undertaken to provide some objectivity to the financial situation we find ourselves in, hence engaging CIPFA to do this work.
  5. Despite having the second largest number of fire stations (85) and front line fire engines (121) in England, we remain concerned that capital funding allocation does not appear to have been allocated on the basis of need.

We note that the Council Tax Reward Grant in relation to 2013-14 will now be continued into 2015-16. This is to be welcomed, however as an authority that decided not to accept this reward grant as we needed certainty as to longer term financial planning, we do feel that it would have been more helpful to have declared this at the outset of the scheme. We ask that future awards give absolute clarity of the number of years to be paid to inform local Council Tax setting decision.

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