Fire service asks: “Could you support a £1.44 a year increase in Council Tax?”

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MEMBERS of the public are being asked by Cambridgeshire and

Peterborough Fire Authority if they would support a council tax rise of 2.5 per cent from April 2012.

The proposed raise would mean an average Band D property would pay an extra £1.44 a year – just a little more than a loaf of bread.

The extra money raised from the council tax increase is needed to meet inflationary pressures and allow for essential investment in Cambridgeshire

Fire and Rescue Service’s (CFRS) operational equipment over the year.

If the money cannot be raised through a council tax increase, the fire authority will be forced to take a one-off Government grant of approximately £400,000, which the Government has offered in exchange for fire authorities freezing council tax over this period (2012/13).

However, this is not quite as clear cut as it sounds. As the Government grant is a one-off payment and will not feature as part of the ongoing base budget, it will mean that come 2013/14, the fire authority will have two options:

1. Increase the council tax by a significant amount, over and above

inflationary pressures. This will be to cover 2012/13 and also an

increase for 2013/14.

Or, if the Government caps a rise on council tax and only allows a certain percentage increase:

2. Add the deficit to the budget cuts that CFRS already face (£4.2 million

to £6 million) which could contribute to the loss of more jobs and more

resources, such as retained fire engines.

Roy Pegram, Chairman of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Fire Authority said: “At first glance, the easy option would be to take the one-off Government grant of £410,000.

“However, by freezing the council tax during 2012/13, the best case scenario is that the authority will be forced to put in place a huge hike in council tax the following year (2013/14), when the Government grant is not likely to be replaced.

“The worst case scenario is that the Government will cap council tax increases and we won’t be able to put in place a council tax rise, which will mean that we will have to add a further £410,000 on the already onerous budget cuts that the fire service need to make.

“We are already finding it very difficult to make the budget cuts without a significant loss of service to the public.”

Members of the public have until January 25 to make their views known, by either commenting on the fire service website www.cambsfire.gov.uk, by

emailing information@cambsfire.gov.uk or by post to Matthew Warren,

Director of Resources, Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service

Headquarters, Hinchingbrooke Cottage, Brampton Road, Huntingdon.

Cambridgeshire. PE29 2NA.

The fire authority will make a final decision on February 23, once comments have been made.