Posted: Mon 30th Jan 2023

Fire Authority set for 9.9% levy increase from Wrexham Council – Leader brands it ‘ludicrous and unfair’

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This article is old - Published: Monday, Jan 30th, 2023

The Leader of Wrexham Council has expressed his dismay at a 9.9% increase in contribution to the North Wales Fire and Rescue Authority.

The majority of funding for the North Wales Fire and Rescue Service is received by way of levy from the Unitary Authorities within the area. The contribution is based on population, and is detailed in the table at the footer of this article, where Wrexham’s input is second only to Flintshire.

The recent Fire and Rescue Authority meeting (video here) saw a debate on Fire and Rescue funding, with papers at that meeting noting work had taken place to reduce planned budgets, as the initial budget assessment indicated a budget requirement of £44.7m (+13.5%) and update noted a revised requirement of £44.081m (+11.85%), “Members requested proposals to further reduce the budget requirement including changes to service provision.”

Employee pay costs ‘exceed 70% of net expenditure’, with it explained, “Due to outstanding pay negotiations and pay inflation, the Authority is facing unavoidable additional commitments and this remains an area of significant uncertainty. The current planning assumption is that the 2022/23 pay claim is settled at 5%, and the pay award for 2023/24 is 4% for all staff. A two-year deal may be secured, but national pay awards have not yet been finalised, so this remains a significant planning risk.”

Other plans included in the draft capital plan proposes a capital requirement of £6.53m for 2023/24, “The main element of the plan relates to the potential purchase of land to accommodate the new Training Centre and the essential investment in new fire appliances” which the authority meeting was told was in the very early days of planning – but required.

“Welsh Government removal of grant towards running national communication system” – Airwave – is also mentioned, a reduction of £400k. The authority said they cant say why it was pulled, saying ‘sadly’ they now have to incur it. The authority was told the deputy minister had referred in a letter it was due to ‘finical constraints’. No emergency service can move away from Airwave until a UK wide procured replacement is provided in 2027.

 

Wrexham Councillors referenced the Fire Authority budget process in the Executive Board meeting last week, with the council’s proposed budget presented having £757,552 as an emerging pressure, for the Fire Levy. That is listed as a 9.9% uplift to total £8,409,594.

Council Leader Mark Pritchard was scathing in his comments, “There was a discussion with the leaders across North Wales. I can make my position very clear here. I’m happy to say publicly I didn’t support it, and I wouldn’t have supported it if I would have had a vote for the 9.9 increase with regards to the fire levy.

“I made my position very clear in the meeting. I spoke to fire officers at that meeting. I thought it it was ludicrous, and it was unfair, and I felt that they had to cut their cloth accordingly like all the authorities across Wales.

“I made my position clear. I didn’t support it. But, I do respect the democratic process within that process. In my opinion, it is not correct at this moment in time for a levy to be set at 9.9%. It’s unfair, because for every 1% we pay extra I think it’s about £76,00-80,000 which comes out of our budgets, and that means that we’ve got that amount of money less to spare.”

Councillor Beverley Parry-Jones also spoke on the matter, although hard to hear she did say ‘I certainly did not support the 9.9 increase, I felt it was too much’ as well as referring to a a debate that was ‘robust at times’.

 

 



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