Fire service launches survey and asks Devon and Somerset council tax payers ‘are we worth it?’

Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service is sounding out residents to ask how much would they be prepared to pay through council tax for its work.

The fire service has launched a consultation until Friday, December 18, with an online survey, quizzing the public about possible council tax increases, value for money and service satisfaction.

Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service (DSFRS) said it estimates by 2022 it will need to reduce its costs by at least £3.3million, blaming government funding cuts.

We have to set a budget by balancing the needs of the community with the amount of money we receive from the government and local residents.

DSFRS said it needs to plan ‘a balanced budget’ that addresses any funding shortfalls while continuing to support its communities.’

The Fire Authority wants feedback about the level of council tax precept for the coming year and how satisfied the public feels about the service provided.

It said it has ‘ambitious plans to end preventable fire and rescue emergencies across the two counties while addressing the funding cuts passed down by the Government’.

Sara Randall Johnson, Fire Authority chairman, said: “We have to set a budget by balancing the needs of the community with the amount of money we receive from the government and local residents.

“We want to make sure we give our communities the best service possible. We have ambitious plans to do this by focusing more on preventing incidents while making sure we have the right response available for when emergencies do happen.

“It’s important that people let us know which level of council tax is acceptable so that we can consider this when setting the level of council tax.”

Over the past year, DSFRS said it has increased its protection and prevention activities, making homes and businesses safer by preventing incidents before they happen.

It said the Fire Authority was ‘committed to its ambitious plans to end preventable fire and rescue emergencies across the two counties while addressing funding challenges’.

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Rebuilding projects to modernise Brixham and Plymstock fire stations began in 2020, and refurbishment at Wellington and Bridgwater stations.

In 2019 DSFRS it held a cost-cutting consultation, Safer Together, where a number of East Devon fire stations came under threat of closure or reduced crewing hours.

As a result, Budleigh Salterton Fire Station closed permanently in April 2020. Its fire vehicle was removed. Some crew relocated to Exmouth.

Topsham Fire Station will close by the end of 2020. Some crew are relocating and its fire engines are moving to other nearby stations.

Budleigh Salterton fire station

The former Budleigh Salterton Fire Station, which closed earlier in 2020.

Topsham

The fire service is looking at the ‘disposal’ of the town’s station. The crew will leave by the end of 2020.
Photo: Topsham Fire Station.

The fire service said the total cost of running Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service equates to approximately £43.91 a year per head of the population.

The current charge is £88.24 a year for a Band D property.

Each year the fire service presents options for Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Authority’s consideration demonstrating what an increase, or no increase, would mean.

DSFRS has 83 local fire stations across Devon and Somerset, employs around 2,000 staff, and attends approximately 16,400 incidents every year in addition to prevention activities – these include flooding, road traffic collisions, fires and other emergencies.

Its funding comes from a central government grant, a council tax slice, and a share of business rates.

  • For more information see here. See the DSFRS council tax precept survey here.

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