THIS EMAIL IS SENT ON BEHALF OF DAWN WHITTAKER, CHIEF FIRE OFFICER, EAST SUSSEX FIRE AND RESCUE SERVICE
To: Local Authority Chief Executives, Business Groups and Staff Representative Bodies
In advance of the meeting of the Fire Authority on 15 February 2018, when it will make its final decisions on its budget and Council Tax for 2018/19, I invite you to comment on our budget proposals. A link is provided below to the draft budget papers (item 83) that will be considered by the Fire Authority's Policy and Resources Panel on 18 January 2018. While these may change before the final budget is set, in the light of further information on government funding, business rates and council tax, they clearly set out the Authority’s proposed budget strategy for next year.
Like all local authorities, the Fire Authority continues to face financial challenges and the Authority has already implemented a range of savings with £0.687m expected in 2018/19 and a total of £0.722 over the next five years. These savings together with increases in income from council tax mean that a balanced budget can be delivered in 2018/19. The Authority faces a number of uncertainties and risks beyond 2019/20 when the current multi-year settlement, the agreement between the government and the Authority on the level of central government funding, comes to an end.
The Government announced that of an increase in the level of increase in Council Tax that can be made with the need for a local referendum in 2018/19 and 2019/20 from 2% to 3% provides the Authority with some flexibility. Two options will be put forward:
· The Authority’s existing strategy of increases of 1.94% each year in Council Tax between 2018/19 and 2022/23
· Increases of 2.94% in 2018/19 and 2019/20 and 1.94% thereafter.
The decision will influence the level of savings required in the future, up to £1.3m if the lower increase is chosen, whereas if the higher increase is chosen the future level of savings required will fall to £0.9m as well as allowing additional funding of £200,000 in 2018/19 and £300,000 in 2019/20 to support further investment in the Authority’s existing policy of match-funding the retrofitting of sprinklers in high rise / high risk premises.
We also expect to make further savings, not yet reflected in our budget plans by:
· Planned reviews of Governance and Support Services, the latter to include clearer criteria for assessing collaborative opportunities to ensure the Authority can prioritise / focus its effort in this area;
· Reviews of all existing programmes, projects and collaborative initiatives to evaluate the potential financial impact including the potential to deliver efficiency savings;
· Evaluation of the potential financial and performance impact of the 10 focus areas of the IRMP;
· Review of opportunities for delivering further efficiencies through IT and Procurement;
· Re-assessment of the use of the Improvement & Efficiency Reserve with a focus on supporting invest to save initiatives;
We are also continuing to invest in our services. There will be a significant development at the Preston Circus site in the City of Brighton & Hove and the final proposals for the Integrated Transport Function Projects including a new workshop near Bexhill with our partners West Sussex Fire and Rescue, Surrey Fire and Rescue and with Sussex Police and Surrey Police. We are also using funding from the East Sussex Business Rate Pool to extend Safer Business Training initiatives, building on those already provided.