Cost of Merseyside fire and rescue services on the rise

The cost of fire and rescue services across Merseyside is on the rise.

As local authorities and public bodies continue to wrestle with financial pressures, Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service (MFRS) is the latest to set out its budget plans for the next financial year. In a bid to meet financial challenges, the amount we all pay towards the provision of services across the region is proposed to rise.

Members of the fire and rescue authority are recommended to approve an increase of the precept of almost 3%.

There is a legal requirement for the authority to set a balanced budget and decide its level of precept before 1 March. The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) indicated that the maximum limit to increase the precept before a referendum would be 2.98% for 2024/25.

Due to the uncertainty over future funding and expenditure, the Authority agreed to deal with any financial challenge once its future Government funding had been confirmed.

A report to the fire authority outlined how it is expected such an increase would generate more than £1m in the next financial year. Members approved a medium-term financial plan up to 2027/28 identifying almost a shortfall of almost £700,000 for the next 12 months, up to £1m by 2028.

The precept increase is expected to lift the rate for a band D property to £91.25, a rise of £2.64 a year. If the authority wished to hold a referendum and increase the precept by more than 3%, then it would face a risk, if the electorate voted against the increase, of incurring the expense of re-billing all the districts within Merseyside at an estimated cost of more than £1m. 

Earlier this month, an increase to the annual precept paid by households to fund the police by an average of £8.67 for a Band A property was signed off. It was announced in December that Police and Crime Commissioners would be expected to raise the police precept – factoring the full amount in their budget plans for policing.

The increase equates to 17p a week for a Band A household – the rate paid by most council taxpayers across Merseyside. For a Band D property, it is 25p a week. Alongside the precept increase, £5.2m of reserves is to be used to plug an £8m funding gap, alongside one-off funding. A further £3.3m in cuts will be made by Chief Constable Serena Kennedy.

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