County MPs in call for fair funding for Shropshire

Shropshire MPs are demanding fairer funding for Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service.

North Shropshire MP Owen Paterson, who is also the Northern Ireland Secretary, is in talks with fellow Government Ministers about Shropshire’s “unfair deal” compared to other brigades.

Shropshire’s population spread over a rural 1,235 square miles means it gets less funding to run its fire and rescue service.

Similar sized Humberside gets £28.60 per head of population compared to just £16.60 for Shropshire, revealed Councillor West, chair of Shropshire and Wrekin Fire Authority, who is lobbying for an increase in Government grant to run a rural fire and rescue service.

Councillor West has already appealed for residents to write to their local MP to demand fair funding for the county fire brigade.

Owen Paterson said: “I am a strong supporter of Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service and have long made the case for the imbalance in funding across a range of public services already impacting on thinly populated rural areas.

Telford MP David Wright said that Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service received just 38 per cent of its funding from central government compared with 44 per cent in Staffordshire and 69 per cent in the West Midlands.

The county brigade looked after 192,000 households and 15,000 businesses with just 28 fire engines, 23 of them “on call.”

“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that cutting the fire service while increasing the number of households reliant on that service puts people and property in greater danger,” he said.

Ludlow MP Philip Dunne said he too had long campaigned to see the extra cost of providing services in rural areas recognised in Government formulae which allocate funds across the country.

“I have supported Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service in making their case for fairer funding within Government. So I am pleased that recognition of the cost of providing fire and rescue services in sparsely populated areas is under serious consideration for the first time in years.”

Wrekin MP Mark Pritchard added that he was joining other county MPs to request Government Ministers offer more support for rural fire services.

“The Government needs to recognise the particular challenges facing rural fire authorities.”
The campaign to lobby Ministers gained momentum as it was revealed that a small increase in Government grant could freeze the portion of council tax paid to fund Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service.

Councillor West and Chief Fire Officer Paul Raymond have visited Westminster four times in the past 18 months to highlight the unfairness of the formula that distributes tax money to all fire authorities across England. They are increasingly hopeful that the Government will recognise the extra costs of delivering emergency services in rural areas.

“We have set out our case to the Fire Minister and he is very sympathetic to our plea to ensure fairness for people living in rural areas,” Councillor West said.

“Just £2 extra grant per head of population from Government would mean we could continue to deliver our service and ask for less money from local tax payers.

“We are asking local households to pay 5p per week more for the service this year but we believe that a fairer funding of rural services would ensure that local tax payers were not continually hit in the pocket.”

Densely populated areas get huge amounts of extra money to provide fire services whereas no more money is allocated for the significant extra costs of delivering the emergency service in places like Shropshire.

23rd March, 2012