Friday, 6 January 2012

Keeping Council Tax Down Threatens Frontline Fire Cover

Cambridgeshire Liberal Democrats have attacked plans to cut frontline fire cover in a bid to keep council tax increases well below inflation.

Nigel Bell, Lib Dem leader on Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Fire Authority claims that a rise of just 2.5 per cent, half the rate of inflation, would lead to unacceptable future cuts in emergency cover.

He says an increase of just one per cent more would cost the public only a few pence extra a week, but protect services for the future.

Cllr Bell welcomed, however, the authority’s intention not to accept the offer of a one-off government grant of around £400,000 as an alternative to a council tax rise.

“If we were to accept this government grant, it would be disastrous for long-term funding and inevitably lead to future cuts in front-line services,” he said.

“But the proposed 2.5 per cent council tax  rise is half the current rate of inflation and I am concerned that it will lead to unacceptable cuts to the frontline being imposed in future years.

"A rise of just one per cent extra to 3.5 per cent would ensure that we could maintain the front-line emergency service at its current level without cutting vehicles, stations and fire fighters. The Lib Dem group asked that an option to support a 3.5% rise be included in the consultation but this was outvoted and rejected by Conservative members. This is despite a Fire Brigade Union survey showing that the public were overwhelmingly in favour of paying the few pence a week extra required.

"It is unacceptable that we should be cutting frontline services in order to keep council tax rises well below inflation."