East Sussex fire service agrees to council tax rise

Firefighters at a blaze in Wellesley Road last month. Photo by Dan Jessup
Firefighters at a blaze in Wellesley Road last month. Photo by Dan Jessup

East Sussex Fire Authority has agreed an increase in Council Tax payments at a meeting today (February 15).

This 2.94 per cent rise means that Band D Council Tax will increase from £88.40 to £91.00 in 2018/19, providing a 24/7 emergency response for just £1.75 per week.

The decision comes as part of measures to help provide financial stability for the Fire and Rescue Service at a time when funding from central government has been reduced even further.

East Sussex Fire Authority will be investing £200,000 of the additional income it receives in match funding the installation of sprinkler systems in local high-rise residential buildings. If a similar increase in Council Tax is agreed in 2019/20 this figure could rise to £500,000.

Fire Authority Chairman, Cllr. John Barnes, said, “East Sussex Fire Authority is committed to providing an effective and efficient prevention, protection and response service to the communities it serves.

“We will be spending more on match funding the installation of sprinkler systems in local high risk / high-rise residential buildings which will help prevent fires, protect our residents and improve the safety of our firefighters.

“We continue to work closely with South East Coast Ambulance Service in delivering life-saving services and we are working hard to improve safety within businesses and also reduce accidental dwelling fires and false alarms in our area.”

The Authority is now planning for the additional requirements of growth in the county. It says it anticipates a significant amount of new housing with more people living in the area and also an increase of driving on the roads.

A spokesperson for the Fire Authority said, “We have also committed to making better use of our existing buildings. In the last year we have moved to share a Headquarters with Sussex Police, sold our old HQ for £4.4m which will be used to fund improvements to our other buildings, including £2.6m to refurbish Preston Circus Fire Station, and are using Government grant funding to work with other public sector bodies to see where we can share the buildings we own.

“The Service has also made great progress regarding water safety in our area and we are continuing to work closely with partner agencies to ensure people have a better understanding of risks and to reduce the number of water related incidents the Service attends.

“In the UK, drowning accounts for more accidental fatalities every year than fires in the home or cycling on the road and many more people suffer life changing injuries in water related incidents.”

The Fire Authority’s net revenue budget has been set at £38.2 million. This is funded from government grants (£3.7m), business rates (£7.9m), and council tax (£26.5m).

The authority revealed the main areas it spends its revenue budget on are: employees (£27.2m); running expenses (£9.4m); and capital financing (£2.1m).