East Sussex fire service: Council tax rise was ‘tough decision’

Fire and Rescue news
Fire and Rescue news

East Sussex taxpayers will see a rise in the amount of council tax they pay for East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service from April.

At its meeting on February 14, East Sussex Fire Authority agreed to increase its part of the tax by 2.94 per cent.

The increase means the average Band D council tax will increase by five pence per week, to £93.67 a year.

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John Barnes, fire authority chairman, said: “It is never an easy decision to impose extra tax on hard-pressed households, but given the uncertainties about future funding, members of the authority are certain that we should do nothing to compromise the service provided. We shall be looking for further savings to ensure that our five year plan can be delivered and we are working with other services to see what we can best do together.

“The range of work we are involved in may surprise some – we have education visits to schools, teams carrying out safety visits in people’s homes and inspectors helping check businesses are meeting their legal duties when it comes to fire safety. We also work in collaboration with other organisations and emergency services to help make the most of our funding.”

The fire authority’s net revenue budget has been set at £39m.

East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service not only provides emergency response, but also regulates fire safety in businesses and works to prevent emergencies happening in the first place through its community safety programmes.

The fire service is now funded mostly by council tax (70 per cent), with the rest of its income now from business rates (30 per cent).

It said while ‘good progress’ has been made delivering savings, there remains ‘significant uncertainty’ about the service’s funding from Government after 2019/20.

The Authority has been lobbying local MPs and central government, through the National Fire Chiefs Council, to ensure it has the funding it needs to keep making communities safer.

The Authority has agreed to participate in the East Sussex Business rates Retention pilot scheme, forgoing Revenue Support Grant in favour of keeping a much greater share of local Business Rates.

It is estimated that this will gain an extra £550,000 in 2019/20 which will support services and local initiatives over the next two years.