Councillor Angharad Roberts asked the following question of the Council’s lead councillor on the Nottinghamshire and the City of Nottingham Fire and Rescue Authority:
After some of the most unprecedented extreme weather conditions over the summer, when Fire Services across the country were stretched to the limit, properly funded fire services are essential to keep people safe. Continuing underfunding of the fire service by the Government is leaving a £2m funding gap in 2023, impacting frontline services with proposed reductions to staffing, and withdrawal of 2 fire engines, including one from London Road. What will be the impact of these cuts and how will they affect the resilience of Nottinghamshire and the City of Nottingham Fire and Rescue Services in the longer term?
Councillor Patience Ifediora replied as follows:
Thank you Lord Mayor and thank you Councillor Roberts for your question. Since 2010, Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service has seen budget reductions of £9.6m in real cash terms. The position is likely to be significantly higher as factors such as inflation were not considered as part of the 2022/23 budget report considered by the Fire Authority in February 2022. The Treasurer based his report on planning assumptions at the time and predicted a 2023/24 deficit of £2.1m. Following a review of planning assumptions around inflation and the pay award, those figures are likely to show a budget deficit in excess of £3.3m. Clearly, this requires action by the Fire Authority to ensure it is well placed to deliver a balanced budget. The Authority receives over half of its funding from council tax. Increases to the council tax precept are currently limited to 1.95%. The impact of these financial challenges will be felt across the whole of the Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service, including front line support services.Support services are non-operational front-line staff, including key community engagement roles, and they will be part of a workforce review which will contribute to the overall efficiency savings in the financial year 2022/23 and beyond. The Service recognises the key contribution support services and non-operational roles have in serving our communities and will do everything possible to minimise any impact by investing in business improvement and structural design. Nottingham Fire and Rescue Service has worked with those with extensive experience of emergency services around the world to optimise results and respond in the most efficient and effective way. Given the reduced financial envelope, the best option with least impact on Nottinghamshire and Nottingham City will be: removal of second appliance from London Road, removal of second appliance from Stockhill, conversion of West Bridgford from one whole time appliance to one day shift appliance, conversion of Ashfield from one day shift and one on-call appliance to one whole time and one on call appliance. Inevitably, such a reduction in resources will have an impact on service performance. The average time for the first appliance to arrive to an incident for mobilisation will increase by seven seconds. Whilst this increase will have minimal impact on the outcome of an incident, it will mean that the management plan commitment to attend within an average of 8 minutes will be breached. Nottingham Fire and Rescue Service works hard to manage resources to meet the resilience needs of our communities. The Service has embedded procedures, which sees the Service move resources aligned to risk on a daily basis. The Service works collaboratively with other Fire and Rescue Services to manage risk and demand, particularly Derbyshire and Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Services, with whom it shares emergency control capabilities, which enables mobilisations resulting in an increase in resilience over periods of high demand. Nottingham Fire and Rescue Service received a significant increase in incident numbers over a short period of time during the summer months, primarily due to the dry and hot weather. With the potential of reduced resources, it will seek to invest more time and effort to learn lessons and evolve its capabilities to ensure the continued resilience of its services. Nottingham Fire and Rescue Service is currently consulting on its plan to deal with budget pressures and it is asking communities to have their say. Councillors and members of the public can have their say by visiting the public consultation section of the Nottinghamshire and City of Nottingham Fire and Rescue Authority website. Thank you.