Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service may have to make an extra £1.3m cuts per year by 2016 – making reductions in “the front line” a very real possibility, revealed the Chief Fire Officer.
This comes on top of the £3.2m in cuts already made to its £20m annual budget – together meaning that the brigade will suffer a more than 20 per cent budget reduction by 2016.
Chief Fire Officer Paul Raymond said today: “We were facing a difficult challenge in 2010 with the prospect of a £3 million cut to our budget by 2016.
“But the extra £1million cut we are now predicting following the announcement from the Government yesterday will add significantly to that challenge.
“Clearly this will be almost impossible to achieve without impacting on the front line. I will be advising elected members of the Fire Authority to begin consultation in the Spring to give us enough time to make these difficult reductions.”
They will also be asking the Shropshire public if they are prepared to pay more in council tax.
Shropshire has a total of 22 “retained” fire stations covering the mainly rural parts of the county – and they each cost £100,000 to run.
“The extra £1m cuts per year we have to make is equivalent to the costs of running ten of our fire stations. That is the size of our problem,” said Mr Raymond.
Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service has already slashed its budget – one of the smallest brigade budgets in the UK – with a 10 per cent cut in both firefighters and support staff and a 25 per cent reduction in senior officers. This follows a “severe streamlining” of all its services.
Cllr Stuart West, Shropshire and Wrekin Fire Authority chairman, together with officers put Shropshire’s “special” case as one of the UK’s most poorly funded brigades, to the Fire Minister at a meeting on Monday this week.
“Our overall grant cut since 2010 has been 22 per cent - the largest percentage cut of any other fire authority. In comparison Hereford and Worcester has had a 7.6 per cent cut and Staffordshire 7.3 per cent,” Cllr West told the Fire Minister.
“We have always said we will make our fair share of cuts to meet the deficit but an extra £1 million will be very difficult to find.”
Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service has been praised for being one of the best performing brigades in the UK. The Shropshire service will now receive a grant of £14.13 per head of population for its fire service compared with £24.34 in the West Midlands.
There are fire control operators based at the Shrewsbury fire HQ who take emergency calls 24/7 along with support staff essential to keep the service operating. They include an ICT team, administration; HR and finance staff and technical services crews who maintain fire appliances and essential fire fighting equipment.
A small training school also operates from Telford Fire Station, one of 23 stations across Shropshire serving a mainly rural population approaching half a million.