Tyne and Wear fire chiefs add to council tax bills, blasting the Government for forcing rises
Fire chiefs have accused the Government of attempting to deceive the public over council tax increases.
Families across Tyne and Wear are facing higher charges from April, as bosses battle to balance the books in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
And while a 1.99% rise to the portion of household bills which pays for fire and rescue services – the maximum allowed – has been agreed, North East leaders claim Ministers have forced them into the move.
“It’s disappointing, not only to see the continued reduction in resources, but also the deceit, the sleight of hand, that the Government has adopted, to say that money is available to the fire authority through the council tax precept,” said Nick Forbes, vice chairman of the Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Authority.
“This is shifting the burden of responsibility further and further towards the council tax payers.
“The Government has dismantled [the previous grant system] and left us increasingly solely reliant on council tax.
“That is simply not fair, not justifiable, and means that we have difficult decisions to take.”
Forbes, who is also the leader of Newcastle City Council, was speaking at a meeting of the fire authority on February 15, which was held by videolink and broadcast via YouTube.
The 1.99% increase to the precept in Tyne and Wear will add £1.67 to the annual bill for a band D property, taking it to £85.64, before further charges are added for police and council services.
Income streams are already strained at the authority, which has already seen its council tax base for 2021/22 shrink by 1.04 per cent – equivalent to a fall in available cash of almost £260,000.
Dennis Napier, strategic finance manager at Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS), said: “A 1.99% increase is proposed [to the fire authority precept] to keep within Government guidelines to avoid a referendum.
“But members will be aware, from the provisional grant settlement, that the Government already had this increase built into the resources position for the authority.
“So the Government has presumed that the authority will make this increase in the resources position that they declared as part of the finance settlement.”