POLL: Would you pay another 9.6p a week council tax to avoid further cuts to Cambridgeshire’s fire service?
16:40 25 December 2012
People living in Cambridgeshire could be asked to pay another 9.6p a week in council tax to avoid further cuts to the county’s fire service.
Twenty-five firefighters and two fire engines are already earmarked to go, as part of a cost cutting package aimed at shaving £4.2m off the brigade’s £30m budget by 2015.
Officials say the firefighters’ jobs will be lost via “natural wastage”, while a further 35 non-operational posts will also go.
A new combined control room is also being set up, which will handle 999 calls from both Cambridgeshire and Suffolk.
Now senior officers have been told they must save an additional £600,000 over the next financial year buy the government.
They say the extra saving leaves them facing “a significant challenge” if they are to balance the books without further cuts to the county’s front line services.
But Cambridgeshire is one of a handful of “low cost” authorities which have been told they could raise their share of the council tax by an extra £5 a year to help maintain services.
Its chief fire officer Graham Stagg said: “We essentially find ourselves in a position of uncertainty and now have to find more savings than originally anticipated.
“However, the government has recognised that we are one of the lowest-cost authorities and it has offered us a way out, but only by increasing council tax levels by about 9.6p a week.
“If this is agreeed by the public and fire authority, this would balance our books and mean we could continue with our current saving plans, with minimal impact to the front line or public.
“What is impoprtant to stress is that the savings made so far have not beeen made easily and have caused a considerable amount of pain to the service.
“It has meant redundancies, shift changes and a reduction in our capacity, meaning improvements to our service will be slower than in recent years.
Mr Stagg said further reductions in government spending were likely after 2015. But he said he was “confident” that the brigade would be able to meet future challenges.
Cambridgeshire fire authority will decide whether to impose the increase when it meets in February, after carrying out a public consultation.