Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority confirmed on Thursday, February 26, 2015, an increase in its council tax precept by just below 2% for 2015-16, following the largest Government grant cuts in the country – 35% since 2010.
Most taxpayers on Merseyside live in Band A properties and will see an annual increase of 94p for their fire and rescue service (or less than 2p per week).
The Authority had previously agreed a two-year financial plan based on Government spending announcements covering the period up to and including 2015/16 which results in the need to make further savings of £6.3 million.
The budget cuts will be made firstly from support services and will place a number of staff at risk of redundancy. There will be further savings assumed from the cost of debt repayments and continued control of staff salary costs. Together, these measures are expected to save £2.9 million but this will still require a further £3.4 million saving from frontline operational services.
Councillor Dave Hanratty, Chair of Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority, said: “We have made huge reductions in management costs and support services but the Government has left us with no option but to cut our frontline services even further. Our firefighter numbers will reduce from 1,500 a decade ago to less than 700 by the end of 2015/16.
“With support from our local MPs, we have lobbied hard to stop further grant cuts but Government has only partially listened.”
Dan Stephens, Chief Fire Officer, said: “Significant reductions in fire appliances and firefighters mean that we eventually have to reduce the number of community fire stations.
“We will continue our dialogue and consultation with local political leaders and the public, particularly in the areas where stations will be directly affected through merger or closure, but we have few options left open to us.”
The Authority is in the process of making their required operational savings through station mergers and / or closures and is consulting widely on the options available to it, these include:
• A proposal to merge Huyton and Whiston fire stations at a site in Prescot. This merger has been approved following a 12-week consultation with the public and stakeholders.
• A proposal to merge Upton Fire Station and West Kirby Fire Station at a site on Saughall Massie Road or the outright closure of West Kirby. Consultation to start on March 2, 2015. Further details below.
• A proposal to merge Eccleston and St Helens fire stations at a site in St Helens town centre. Further details on this below.
• A proposal to close Allerton Fire Station. A 12-week consultation with the public and stakeholders has taken place. This closure has been approved by Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority following a 12-week consultation with the public and stakeholders.
Reports on any consultation regarding station mergers or a closure will go to the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority for their consideration and any decision.
To comment on the consultation proposals please visit www.merseyfire.gov.uk
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