House of Commons Library

Fire services funding in England

Published Monday, February 15, 2016

This briefing paper sets out the structure of fire and rescue authorities in England, details the sources of their funding and the cuts since 2010, summarises the reports of Sir Ken Knight and the NAO and discusses reaction to the proposal for much greater collaboration between fire and police services.

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The 46 fire and rescue authorities in England are funded in a variety of ways, including income from central Government and revenue raised locally. Income and resources vary depending on the structure of the authority.

Cuts

Since 2010-11 income from the Department for Communities and Local Government - which has primary responsibility for funding the fire sector - has fallen significantly. The NAO found the Government reduced funding for fire and rescue authorities by between 26% and 39%. Its investigation also revealed that spending power has fallen most in areas assessed by the department as having highest levels of fire need.

To mitigate the impact of the cuts fire and rescue authorities have sought to raise more funds through council tax and in a number of cases through alternative business structures. However this has not proven to generate substantial income and has not off-set funding reductions. Apprehensive about the possible permanence of current financial restraints, fire and rescue authorities have thus far resisted the urge to fall back on their financial reserves.

Knight report

In May 2013 former Chief Fire and Rescue Advisor Sir Ken Knight published his report on options for further savings in the fire sector. His finding that the cuts incentivised efforts at achieving greater efficiency and his suggestions of greater use of retained firefighters (those who have other jobs and who serve as firefighters at 10% of a full-time firefighter’s salary) and collaboration with other emergency services were opposed by the Fire Brigades Union.

Collaboration with police

Library Briefing Paper 7494, Police and fire reforms 2016: The Government’s proposals for England, deals with the Government’s proposals to legislate to enable closer working between police and fire services in England.

Commons Briefing papers CBP-7482

Author: Terry McGuinness

Topics: Emergency services, Fire services

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