Tax freeze

Chief Fire Officer Paul Raymond and Fire Authority Chairman Stuart West

The cost of running the county's fire and rescue service will remain the same at £1.61 a week for the average Shropshire householder as the fire authority announces a tax freeze for 2011/12.

Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service is one of the best performing services in England but receives one of the lowest Government grants per head of population out of all the fire and rescue services in the country.

But Councillor Stuart West, chairman of Shropshire and Wrekin Fire Authority said today: "It wouldn’t be appropriate to increase council tax during these difficult financial times for hard working families and with help from Government we are not increasing council tax this year."
"Significant savings" still had to be made but the Chief Fire Officer and his teams were working hard to ensure the delivery of a safe and effective fire and rescue service for the people of Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin, he said.

"We charge the average household £ 1.61 per week for our Service but we are one of the highest performing services in England and so providing excellent value for money has always been at the forefront of our minds. We will only increase council tax once we have explored all other safe, cost saving options."

The other element of funding that the Service receives is from a Government grant, the details of which were announced in December. The Service will now see significant reductions in the money it gets which means it will have to cut more than £3 million from its current £21 million annual budget by 2015.

Chief Fire Officer Paul Raymond added: "We have plans in place to spread our budget reductions over four years. This will enable us to make changes in a controlled fashion and, as far as possible, minimise impact on the way we deliver our services to the community.

"However this will be very difficult to achieve. After consulting my staff and the public, we have plans in place to reduce Operational Officer and firefighter numbers of 600 by around 50 as well as reducing costs and staff numbers across support services. But we will work very hard to continue to deliver the effective service the public demand."

24th February, 2011