28 October 2010
Councillor David Rowlands, Chairman of Buckinghamshire & Milton Keynes Fire Authority, has issued a statement as he looks ahead to the forthcoming distribution of government funding for 2011-2012.
Speaking on the eve of the Local Government Association Combined Fire Authorities’ Conference in Bedford, at which he addressed a debate on the possibility of fire authorities merging, Councillor Rowlands said: “The grant reduction of 25 per cent over the next four years for fire and rescue services in England, announced last week by the government in its Spending Review, was in line with what Buckinghamshire & Milton Keynes Fire Authority was expecting. The detailed announcement, in which we will find out our share of the grant, follows in early December.
“To achieve this level of savings, it is clear that fire and rescue services will need to modernise, increase efficiency and undertake significant workforce reform. It is left to individual fire authorities to decide how to make the required savings.
“We had been preparing for the grant reduction since the start of the year so the figure did not come as a shock. Indeed, we had already adopted most of the cost-saving measures the government suggested fire and rescue services should consider last week.
“That’s not a coincidence - it’s good business sense, and it means the impact of the cuts will be less severe for us than for many other fire and rescue services. For example, we introduced recruitment controls for all but essential posts in January. These controls, and several other purchasing controls that have been implemented by Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service’s management team, have already altered our expenditure profile. We are currently anticipating a managed underspend of over £250,000 on our £28.8 million budget by the end of March next year.
“I am confident that, in the first two years, we can make the required adjustments without significant impacts upon public safety and our response to emergency calls. The fact that our ratio of council tax to government grant is roughly 60:40 also cushions the blow of grant reductions. For some fire authorities the proportion of grant funding is higher and they may suffer greatly.
“We have been getting as much information to our seven MPs in Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes as possible as we compete for our share of the grant. Meetings with them have shown that they have a good understanding of our service’s needs and they are doing a good job of supporting us.
“I greatly regret having to preside over budget reductions, but I am certain that the dedication shown by Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service’s staff will carry the organisation forward and enable it to continue to deliver high-quality, good value safety for the public.”
About Buckinghamshire & Milton Keynes Fire Authority
Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service covers the area served by Buckinghamshire County Council and Milton Keynes Council. A local authority called Buckinghamshire & Milton Keynes Fire Authority, comprising councillors from both councils, oversees the service. Their numbers are proportional to the populations they represent, with 12 members from Buckinghamshire County Council and five from Milton Keynes Council. Click here to go to the Buckinghamshire & Milton Keynes Fire Authority home page.