South Wales’ fire and rescue service has agreed to increase the amount of money it takes from council tax payers by more than 4% next year.
Members of the fire authority which covers 10 local authority areas in south Wales approved the budget proposals for 2020/2021, which will see the budget contributions from those areas go up by 4.25% which would give the service a budget of £74.87 million
The authority had consulted on a 4.5% rise but it has gone with the 4.25% rise at its meeting on Monday, February 10.
The 10 council areas that make up the South Wales Fire and Rescue Service area saw their funding from Welsh Government increase by an average of 4.4% in the latest provisional settlement.
In the Vale of Glamorgan, residents will pay a total of £6.38m, an increase of £333,013 or 5.51%.
Here’s how much each area will contribute compared to last year:
- Bridgend will pay £7.05m, an increase of £308,626 or 4.57%
- Rhondda Cynon Taf will pay £11.73m, an increase of £478,256 or 4.25%
- Merthyr Tydfil will pay £2.92m, an increase of £134,169 or 4.81%
- Caerphilly will pay £8.87m, an increase of £334,030 or 3.91%
- Blaenau Gwent will pay £3.4m, an increase of £138,748 or 4.25%
- Torfaen will pay £4.53m, an increase of £196,678 or 4.54%
- Monmouthshire will pay £4.58m, an increase of £201,220 or 4.59%
- Newport will pay £7.4m, an increase of £379,940 or 5.41%
- Cardiff will pay £17.98m, an increase of £547,973 or 3.14%
And here are the main changes to the fire authority budget for next year which increase it by £3 million.
- The pay inflation budget will increase by £1m or 1.5%
- The fire pensions budget will go up by £900,000 or 1.2%
- The Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) pensions budget will decrease by £400,000 or 0.5%
- The premises budget for things like rates, energy and repairs will rise by £800,000 or 1.1%
- The equipment and supplies budget will increase by £200,000 or 0.3%
- The fleet budget will go up by £100,000 or 0.1%
- The contracted services budget will rise by £100,000 or 0.1%
- The capital financing charges budget will go up by £300,000 or 0.5%
There was some concern at the meeting about how the fire authority is going to cover pension costs
The Welsh Government provided a £2.8m grant to cover the costs of changes to fire service pension schemes but the fire authority report says this is a reduction on the already insufficient level of grant provided this year and that the authority is already overspending on this.
Councillor Steven Evans of Torfaen said he was concerned that they will have to find an extra £700,000 to cover pension costs.
Chris Barton, the treasurer of South Wales Fire and Rescue Authority, said: “They (Welsh Government) are underfunding pension costs. I expect that to continue.
“There is no prospect at this moment in time of additional funding.”
Councillor Val Smith of Monmouthshire raised her concerns about the impact of increasing funding contributions to the fire authority for her council.
She said that fire authority budgets are “like a different world” to council budgets and said that councils are “sort of on a shoestring.”
A spokeswoman for the fire authority said: “The fire authority today agreed a 4.25% increase in its budget bringing total expenditure to just under £75m for the next financial year.
“The budget uplift was necessary to fund a combination of pay increases, investment in safety critical equipment, appliances and fire stations and also to meet additional fire pension costs imposed by central government.
“The service is currently funded directly from the ten local councils in South Wales. The increase represents an additional 4p per week for each person in the fire authority’s area. Overall, the cost of the South Wales Fire & Rescue Service still equates to less than £1 per person per week.”
The fire authority has included additional funds for insurance costs which are likely to rise above the level of inflation due to increasing premiums in the industry and has also set aside funding for the upgrade and replacement of software in fleet management and it has found savings in its capital financing charges budget.