Families in County Durhamand Darlington will see the amount they pay for the region’s firefighters increase again for the coming year.
Fire chiefs have agreed to increase their portion of the annual council tax bills by 1.91 per cent, in line with the Government referendum limit.
The decision means a Band D property in the region will see the fire and rescue ‘precept’ they are expected to pay rise from £103.50 to £105.48 from April.
This is an increase of 3.8p per week for a Band D property and 2.5p per week for a Band A property, which make up the majority of homes in the brigade’s patch.
The precept is one of several parts of the annual charge for households, including separate parts for police and core council tax set by local authorities.
In recent years, County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service (CDDFRS) has been forced to rely more on the cash it can raise through council tax.
Although funding from central Government and non-domestic rates will increase by 2.31 per cent in 2020/21, equating to £241,000, it comes following years of cuts.
Members of the area’s fire authority discussed the council tax rise on Tuesday, when setting the service’s 2020/21 budget.
Pressures around future funding included pay awards, firefighter pension schemes and the impact of Brexit on the cost of equipment and vehicles.
A report prepared for the fire authority added there was a “potential for a rise in fire related incidents should poverty increase in the service area.”
During discussion, fire officers and fire authority members pointed to uncertainty around future funding from the Government.
Finance chiefs also prepared ‘best case’, ‘mid-case’ and ‘worst case’ scenarios around the future of funding and the annual pension grant.
Fire authority chair, Coun John Robinson, said that raising council above the referendum limit next year would have a negative impact on the budget.
“It would cost us five times more to have the referendum than what we would be taking in,” he said.
Chair of the fire service’s finance committee, Coun Alison Batey, also praised officers for their work on the budget.
“It’s recognised that prudent financial planning is taking place here under the huge financial uncertainty that there is and the uncertainty in the future.
“It’s no mean task but I would hope [finance officers] would come back on this as there are some pretty worrying scenarios for the future.”