Cllr Andre Gonzales de Savage (Northamptonshire); Cllr Peter Robinson (Lincolnshire); CFO John Redmond (Shropshire); Jerry Falkner (Cheshire); Cllr Janet Duncton (West Sussex)
Graham Biggs (RSN); David Inman (RSN); Advised by:- Martyn Emberson.
1. Notes of last meeting – 16th January 2015
Approved as a correct record.
2. Situation in relation to Group Membership
The Group currently stood at 13 members. Warwickshire has said they were leaving. Cheshire and Buckinghamshire had joined.
3. Comprehensive Spending Review
The announcement lacked any real detail. The Settlement Announcement would be key. Clearly cuts would continue to impact on services and it was felt the impact in rural areas would be considerable.
4. Forthcoming Settlement Announcement
The Group received the "Ask" document. The announcement was expected 16th, 17th, 18th, the Municipal Journal had speculated there may be a delay until the New Year. Graham and David outlined that the work of the Group as a whole had brought £60 million p.a. into the LG and Fire purse through better sparsity recognition and £15.5 p.a. million through Rural Services Delivery Grant. This would have been recognised in a stronger way had the 'gains' not been accompanied by the swinging cut backs. It was hoped the work of the Group would improve the rural position further through increased RSD Grant for 2016-17 but again this would be accompanied by national grant cut backs. The impact in rural areas was felt, despite the money, to be greater than elsewhere and the Fire Group decided to write to the Secretary of State drawing attention to the impact on rural fire services.
5. Financing Fire Services - In the light of announcement re 100% retention of Business Rates
The Group received the brief to Pixel on this subject. The Chancellor had indicated that grant would be replaced by a business rate driven system by the end of the Parliament. To give rural areas any chance of service operation it was believed that a Business Rate equalisation system would have to operate. The level at which this system was introduced was key to the level of service operation in rural areas. As this was a straight rural/urban debate the RSN would be absolutely key to these discussions which it was believed would be detailed.
6. Independent Inspectorate
It was agreed an independent inspectorate had merit and the concept should be generally supported.
7. Where next for Blue Service collaboration
The view of the Group was that collaboration should be a voluntary issue as circumstances vary between authorities. It should not be imposed by government.
8. Collaboration with the Ambulance Service
An experiment was taking place in Lincolnshire. Councillor Robinson said the scheme had been found to have some merits there. A report was to be produced shortly and member asked that it be circulated when it became available.
9. The operation of the Group in the context of its budget
It was believed the Fire Group cost some £5,000 to operate (without specific resource). Currently income was some £2000 and if all current invoices were met it would be at £4000. The Group therefore had to increase membership by some 3 more members to keep the group operating. The Chair agreed to send out a letter to non members over the New Year period.
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