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South Wales Fire Service set to approve 3.54% rise in amount it takes from Council tax payers

 

South Wales Fire Service is set to approve a 3.54% rise in the amount of money it takes from council tax payers.

At a meeting on Monday, February 8, the fire authority will consider its budget for 2021/2022 with a recommended contribution of £77.5 million from the 10 local authority areas it covers.

This will fund revenue costs like staff costs, premises related costs, supplies and services and transport costs among other things.

The proposed 3.54% rise is worth approximately £600,000 less than the 4.3% originally included in the authority’s Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS).

Across the 10 areas that the fire service covers, the Welsh Government provisional settlement announced in December saw an aggregate increase in funding of 4.1%.

Population changes impact directly on the level of budget contributions from individual councils and the authority has previously estimated a range of increases in council contributions of between 2% and 6% which the report said appears to have been accurate with a proposed increase of 3.54%.

Here are the contributions each of the 10 areas would make if the proposed budget is approved by members of the fire authority.

  • Blaenau Gwent would see its contribution go up by £76,160 (from £3.4m to £3.48m) which is a rise of 2.24%
  • Bridgend would see its contribution increase by £308,407 (from £7.05m to £7.36m) which is a rise of 4.37%
  • Caerphilly would see its contribution increase by £227,736 (from £8.87m to £9.09m) making it a rise of 2.57%
  • Cardiff would see its contribution go up by £387,756 (from £17.98m to £18.37m) which is a rise of 2.16%
  • Merthyr Tydfil would see its contribution increase by £115,364 (from £2.92m to £3.03m) which is a rise of 3.94%
  • Monmouthshire would see its contribution go up by £176,343 (from £4.58m to £4.76m) which is a rise of 3.85%
  • Newport’s contribution would go up by £446,368 (from £7.4m to £7.85m) which is a rise of 6.03%
  • Rhondda Cynon Taf’s contribution would increase by £386,706 (from £11.73m to £12.11m) a rise of 3.3%
  • Torfaen’s contribution would go up by £163,227 (from £4.53m to 4.69m) a rise of 3.6%
  • And the Vale of Glamorgan’s contribution would increase by £361,955 (from £6.38m to £6.74m) a rise of 5.67%.

The fire authority approved a revised staffing structure in September 2018 which forms the basis of the revenue budget.

A detailed assessment of the pay budget has now been completed including any discernible impacts arising from Covid-19.

The fire authority’s pay budget was already overcommitted in the current year due to a pay award for Green Book staff which was more than that budgeted.

The fire authority has absorbed this overspend estimated at £50,000 during the current year to avoid any subsequent call on council budgets, the report said

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Assumed pay awards are included in the budget estimates for next year.

The Chancellor announced in the autumn that pay increases in the public sector (NHS excepted) would be limited to those on the lowest levels of pay.

The report said: “Whilst these comments are noted, there remains significant doubt as to whether such constraints are deliverable against the background of the necessary Covid pandemic response. In preparing the budget, it is
recommended that the planned inflation provisions remain in place.”

During the consultation process, one council has asked what the intended approach of the fire authority would be if the pay awards were agreed at a lower level than those estimated.

The report confirmed that the proposed approach would be to reduce the fire authority’s budget to the lower level required and refund the excess of contributions which would arise but that this could only happen once the pay awards were formally agreed by the relevant negotiating bodies.

Significant investment in ICT to meet revised software licensing models previously highlighted in the earlier reports is built into the budget as is provision for the replacement of essential operational equipment, the report said.

It also said that initial indications from Welsh Government are that grant funded projects will continue on a cash flat basis in 2021/22 but final confirmation of these and other grants will only come after Welsh Government’s budget is agreed in March which will be after the fire authority needs to formally agree its final budget

The fire authority will also be asked to approve a capital budget for its property, fleet, ICT and other costs of £7.11 million.

There is also a recommendation that the fire authority agrees to delegate to the treasurer discretion to reduce the contributions budget for next year should the actual pay awards for 2021/22 be less than estimated and that the fire authority also gives delegated powers to the treasurer to make the necessary calculations and to adjust or refund council contributions accordingly.

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