Northamptonshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner Stephen Mold is asking for a 1.99 per cent increase in the fire and rescue service precept – £1.21 a year for a band D household.
Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service (NFRS) transferred to the governance of the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner in January 2019 as the fire service with second lowest level of national core funding.
Despite these financial challenges, since Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service transferred to the Commissioner’s office, it has made significant improvements in operational performance – including now responding more quickly to incidents.
Over the past year, NFRS has been able to launch the largest recruitment drive for ten years, for 32 new firefighters, of whom 12 are filling brand new roles to increase the size of the fire service in Northamptonshire. Seven new vehicles are also being purchased to replace ageing appliances, some of which are more than 15 years old.
And more fire appliances are now available to respond to incidents and they are responding more quickly: response times are now around 10 minutes instead of more than 11 minutes, and between 18 and 20 vehicles are available to respond in the county, particularly in the evenings, when people are at home, sleeping and cooking.
The increase of 1.99 per cent – the level suggested by the Government – will keep pace with inflation and cover pay rises and other cost increases for NFRS.
In a consultation carried out for the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner, 81 per cent of people said that they would pay more to fund Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service.
Northamptonshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner Stephen Mold said that he was very pleased with the improved performance that the Fire Service has achieved but that if he had the flexibility, he would have asked for a larger increase to get the organisation on a firmer footing:
“Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service has made great progress in the last 12 months, after some challenging years when it suffered because of the financial difficulties of the county council. The service is stable and already improving how it keeps the public safe.
“The Chief Fire Officer and his staff have worked really hard and made significant strides forward that are making Northamptonshire safer. That work will continue but if I had been able to ask people for an increase of £5 this year, it would have the finances on a much more stable footing and allow the Chief Fire Officer to make those major changes much more quickly.
“I am very grateful for the support of the public and their willingness to pay more to their Fire and Rescue Service. The Chief Fire Officer and his team will press on with their plans to invest and renew and continue to improve the service given to the people of Northamptonshire.”
The Commissioner said that work is underway to share support services where possible with Northamptonshire Police, to increase efficiency and give the Fire Service more capacity in this area. Buildings occupied by both organisations are being reviewed and shared where possible so that the estate is cost effective and affordable. This will allow the maximum amount of money to be put back into frontline services.
The NFRS budget in 2020/21 will be £25.3 million. A band D household will contribute £61.97 towards Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service.
The council tax precept for Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service will be discussed by the Police, Fire and Crime Panel on February 4.