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Dorset and Wiltshire increase council tax to fund fire service

20 February 2018

DORSET AND Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Authority approved a budget of £54.5 million for 2018-19, which has been partially funded by a council tax increase.

Within the recommendation was the requirement to increase council tax with a 4p per week increase for Band D properties in Bournemouth, Dorset, Poole, Swindon and Wiltshire – an annual fire precept of £72.70 for the Fire and Rescue Service within the council tax for the year starting on 1 April 2018.

Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service has one of the lowest operating budgets in the country but has still managed to increase its level of prevention and protection activity over the past ten years. Chief fire officer Ben Ansell said: “Members have approved a fire precept Band D that is still well below the national average, and we also this year received another large funding reduction, as the Government has granted us 5.8% less than last year. Despite that, we are investing even more in our on-call firefighters, who are so essential to maintaining fire cover in our predominantly rural areas.

“Alongside this, we are completely committed to our prevention and protection activities, targeting those most at risk at home, at work or on the roads, and we will continue working with all our partners, with a focus this year on the new Safety Centre, more Salamander courses, the Safe Drive Stay Alive programme for schools and the military. Together with local authorities and health partners, we will deliver a range of schemes that will positively benefit all of our communities.”

The Authority also approved proposals today to establish revised governance arrangements which will save up to £38k per year in Members allowances and provide a more streamlined approach to strategic decision-making.

Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Authority chairman councillor Spencer Flower said: “We have a fantastic fire and rescue service, and the Authority decisions today will ensure that the increased activity in prevention and protection such as safe and well checks, community safety education and partnerships can be strengthened. We deliver so much to our local communities, from a 24/7 emergency response to an ever-increasing range of personal and business safety activities, and we are as committed as ever to ensuring this continues.”

The Authority also received a paper and presentation on the gender pay gap within Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service. Current analysis indicates a mean gender pay gap of 7% and a median gender pay gap of 11.9%, which is lower than the national average of 18% (Office of National Statistics 2017). Although this could be explained by the disproportionate number of male staff to female in operational roles, and the number of males in senior and middle management positions; the Service has put in place several key initiatives to help bridge the gap. These include:

  • Recruitment processes to help rebalance workforce composition;
  • Reviewing and improving workplace facilities for women to help provide a welcoming and supporting environment; and
  • Apprenticeships

CFO Ansell added: “We are committed to ensuring we have a diverse workforce that reflects the communities we serve.”