East Sussex Fire Authority is to meet on Thursday to set its budget and the level of Council Tax that local households pay.
These decisions will be taken at a time when central government is reducing the grant it gives to the Authority, making it more dependent on the income it receives from business rates and local council taxpayers to maintain its services.
The Fire Authority will be asked to decide whether to raise Council Tax by 1.94% or keep Council Tax levels the same and accept a freeze grant from Government.
Option A: increasing Council Tax by 1.94%
This would increase Band D Council Tax by £1.62 to £85.07 a year, raising an estimated £23.2 million. The Fire Authority’s net revenue budget would be set at £38.6m million.
This would be only the second time in 5 years that the Authority has increased its Council Tax and means that our services cost the average household just £1.64 each week.
Option B: accepting the Council Tax Freeze Grant
Freezing Band D Council Tax at £83.45 (i.e. 0% increase on 2014/15) and accepting the Government’s Freeze Grant would raise an estimated £22.7 million. This would involve setting a net revenue budget of £38.4 million.
How East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service is funded
The Authority’s net revenue budget is funded from three main sources (figures in brackets are % for 2015/16 if the Council tax is increased by 1.94% – option A):
- Council Tax (61%)
- Government grant (20%)
- Business Rates (19%)
The Authority’s government grant has decreased by 26%, from £10.5m in 2013/14 to £7.8m in 2015/16 and they expect it to fall to £2.8m by 2019/20.
Over the last 12 months, through its ‘Changing the Service, Shaping our Future’ programme the fire service has been making savings. So far £5.7m of savings have been identified for the period until 2019/20, but they still need to reduce their costs by £1.7m.
Two fire fighter posts have gone at Crowborough, and one of the future proposals is for Crowborough Fire Station to become retained, see more here:
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The Fire Authority meeting takes place at East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service’s HQ, 20 Upperton Road, Eastbourne BN21 1EU on 12 February 2015 from 10.30am.