DN 02/2022 – Fire Precept Proposal 2022/23

28 January 2022

The PFCC has decided, after consultation with the public, to propose to the Police, Fire and Crime Panel a fire precept for 2022/23 of £75.61 for a Band D property within North Yorkshire. This would be an increase of 1.98% (or £1.47) per annum, from the 2021/22 level.

Background

Legislation requires that the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner (PFCC) agrees their budget and associated precept and basic council tax for the forthcoming year before 1st March each year. However before doing so the PCC must notify the relevant Police, Fire and Crime Panel, by the 31st January, of the precept which they propose to issue for the following financial year.

On 16 December 2021, the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Michael Gove MP, set out the Provisional Local Government Finance Settlement for 2022-23 in the form of a Written Ministerial Statement

The Provisional Settlement sets council tax referendum thresholds for Fire Authority’s as the Basic Precept referendum limit will be a 1.99% increase for 2022-23, with a new £5 increase being possible, before a referendum is required, for the eight lowest-charging Fire Authority’s. North Yorkshire is not one of these 8 and therefore this means that any increase in the Fire Precept of 2%, or more, would require a referendum.

Consultation with the public of North Yorkshire has been undertaken to help inform the PFCC of their views in relation to precept increase for the Fire Service.

The results of consultation with the public of North Yorkshire in relation to the level of Fire precept for 2022/23, which had 2,513 responses, has resulted in 71% supporting an increase of 1.99% or above.

The overall results are summarised below:

Total

(n=2513)

Telephone (n=1011) Online

(n=1502)

No more than I pay now – a precept freeze 29% 28% 30%
Up to £1.47, an increase of 1.99% 21% 20% 21%
Up to £5, an increase of 6.7% 30% 32% 29%
Up to £10, an increase of 13.5% 20% 20% 21%
TOTAL who support an increase of at least £1.47/1.99% 71% 72% 70%
TOTAL who support an increase of at least £5/6.7% 50% 52% 50%

In looking at the public opinion, a clear majority (71%) support an increase to the precept. It is worth noting that 50% support an increase that would be in excess of the referendum principles.

Decision Record

The PFCC, having consulted with the public and taken their opinion on board, has reviewed the advice of her officers in relation to the current financial position of the Fire Service and the service’s need for an increase in funding to balance the current budget.

With this in mind, the PFCC has decided to propose to the Police, Fire and Crime Panel a Fire precept for 2022/23 of £75.61 for a Band D property within North Yorkshire. This would be an increase of 1.98% (or £1.47) per annum, from the 2021/22 level.

 

Zoe Metcalfe

Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire

 

Statutory Officer Advice

Legal, Management and Equality Implications

The PCC’s CEO and Monitoring Officer has advised that:

Having read this report and having considered such information as has been provided at the time of being asked to express this view, the Chief Executive & Monitoring Officer is satisfied that this report does not ask the PFCC for North Yorkshire to make a decision which would (or would be likely to) give rise to a contravention of the law.

Financial and Commercial

The PFCC’s Chief Finance Officer and S151 Officer has advised that the financial implications of this Decision are set out in the Executive Summary and/or the attached report that is proposed to be sent to the Police, Fire and Crime Panel. The decision will ensure that the PFCC meets her legislative requirements in relation with the Fire element of the precept.

The CFO would like to bring the following to the attention of the PFCC in making this decision:

  • The PFCC inherited a Medium Term Financial Plan (MTFP) from the former Fire Authority that had an underlying £1.2m annual imbalance, and organisational plans that would have seen this imbalance increase to at least £2.5m across the life of that 4 year plan. A significant amount of work was done to stabilise the financial position of the organisation after the transfer of Governance, with a previous plan in place that would have returned the organisation to a recurring balanced position.
  • However the current position has worsened due to a number of factors including an unfunded pay award in 2021/22, along with projections of high levels of pay awards in the future, significant levels of non-pay inflation and a need to pick up additional costs linked to buildings, that need replacing, but is currently unaffordable to do so.
  • While the next 2 years of the financial plans are projected to balance, only through the use of reserves, beyond this time period it is likely that there will need to be significant changes to the service delivery model to address this financial challenge.
  • This proposed Precept increase also unfortunately does little to address the underlying need to invest in the Fire Service where there is a real need for investment in its estate and fleet which are outdated and in great need of repair, and to improve prevention work across the county to make the people of North Yorkshire safer.
  • It is therefore likely that the changes to the service delivery model will need to go beyond ‘just’ those needed to balance the financial plans otherwise the service will never generate the financial capacity to invest in those areas that are clearly in need.
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