Ensuring affordable fire and rescue services - a public consultation
North Wales Fire and Rescue Authority is encouraging people to have their say on ensuring affordable fire and rescue services, before the draft budget for 2019/20 is set in December 2018.
Setting a balanced budget is an unusually difficult process for the Authority this year. Each county council in North Wales contributes towards the cost of providing fire and rescue services - the gap between the Authority’s estimated costs in 2019/20 and the level of financial contributions made by councils in 2018/19 has reached almost £1.9 million.
At a time when all public services are facing difficult financial decisions the Authority has a duty to ensure it remains as efficient as possible. However, it also has a duty to ensure it can provide the level and quality of fire and rescue services expected by the public, without introducing an unacceptable level of risk.
Councillor Meirick Lloyd Davies, Chair of the Fire and Rescue Authority, explains: “Not only are we facing some unavoidable cost increases in 2019/20, but we also need to make up for the fact that contributions from the county councils over the last three years have been kept low by taking money from our own financial reserves instead.
“Whilst using reserves in this way has worked well in the short term, the true cost of providing services has continued to increase gradually and we are reluctant to risk spending our financial reserves and leave nothing to fall back on.
“The decision we now face is whether to increase our budget by the full amount next year, and so increase the contribution from the county councils by almost £1.9 million, or to increase the budget by a smaller amount and implement cost savings so we do not risk running out of money mid-year.
“Any decision to reduce costs is going to be difficult but having carefully weighed up the alternatives for ensuring a balanced budget next year, members are minded not to pursue large scale savings as the level of risk would be too high at this time. Whilst we have not ruled out making savings, the scale of savings in 2019/20 would stop short of closing fire stations or making firefighters redundant.”
What do you think? Do you think the Authority is making the right choices? The public can find out more about getting involved and read the full details of the consultation here, or by following North Wales Fire and Rescue Service on Twitter or Facebook.
To have your say - please complete the consultation questionnaire which is available here. Responses must be forwarded by the deadline on 2nd November 2018.
The Authority will consider its future plans in light of the responses received and will publish the final 2019-20 Improvement and Well-being Plan on the Authority’s website by 31st March 2019.