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Cllr Andre Gonzales de Sanchez (Northampton) - Chairman, Martin Reohorn (Hereford & Worcester), Jim Onions (Deputy, Cumbria), Cllr Peter Robinson (Lincolnshire), Martyn Emberson (Northants), Roy Harold (Deputy, Norfolk), John Redmond (Shropshire).
Officers – Graham Biggs (RSN), David Inman (RSN), Dan Bates (RSN).
Apologies – CFO Hickmott (Warwickshire), David Pemberton (Warwickshire), Suffolk Council, CFO Dave Ramscar (Lincolnshire), Wiltshire Fire & Rescue, Cllr Nigel Dixon (Norfolk).
Current Fairer Funding Campaign Situation
Graham Biggs reminded the group that 19 Fire and Rescue Authorities would have benefited had the 2012/2013 increase in sparsity allowance not been damped. The sums which would have been won would have been material. We had to unite to fight for this money.
Martin said there was a clear need for a transparency agenda so that people could readily appreciate the difficulties faced by Rural Fire and Rescue Services.
Instead government had been persuaded to introduce a much smaller Rural Services Delivery Grant totalling £8.5m in the first year and now in this year up to £15.5m. This was to be shared between 94 Authorities who had super sparse areas, including 5 Fire and Rescue Services.
The RSN’s target was to at least restore to the 2012/2013 situation – pre damping. Whilst there was some sympathy expressed from relevant Ministers over the situation, the only way the material sums would be likely to be restored would be through joint action and continual campaigning.
Government had been persuaded to undertake joint research with DEFRA through a LG Futures Report. Fire and Rescue Services had been examined as part of this report and important information had been documented about additional sparsity cost in the operation of the Fire Service in rural areas. This might eventually be persuasive but only if the case was continually pushed.
It was however, felt unlikely RSDG would be increased in any way materially by the Final Settlement this year.
The importance of getting sympathetic wording in Party Manifestos was, however, emphasised. The lead Manifestos were being led by Jo Johnson (Conservative) and Huw Erica Davies (Labour).
Dan Bates would prepare a one page summary that would detail:
• Comparative analysis between fire and rescue services.
• How much money came out of government for individual Fire and Rescue Services.
• The link to the RSN Rural Manifesto would also be circulated.
• A brief note on the key points to make would also be circulated to group members.
• A discussion took place on the key ingredients of a rural fire service, which was very different to the norm. A rural fire service dealt less with actual house fires but had a far greater role to play in terms of road accidents, flood risks and community services.
It was felt the LG Futures Report had failed to pick up that particular point. If rural fire brigades were to be judged purely on fire statistics, they simply would not exist. It was simply not the level playing field that Government and others thought it was.
It was decided that to achieve financial sustainability in the long term towards 20 members of this Group needed to be achieved.
However, for 15/16 it was decided the group would operate on the basis of:
• County Fire Services who were in a County that paid a RSN subscription of £2095 or more, a nominal subscription of £100 would be charged.
• For combined brigades or for County brigades not paying a subscription of £2095, the Fire Authorities would be asked to contribute £495 (the RSP subscription fee).
• Two meetings a year would normally be held.
- One with an emphasis on finance (which Services Financial Officers would be encouraged to attend) in each Autumn.
- The second in March in and around the Fire Authorities’ Conference.
It was decided however, that as this year’s conference was in Gateshead it might be difficult to co-ordinate much this year.
It was stressed that if detailed work on the Fire Funding Formula was to be undertaken additional funds would be needed to pay for such work.
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