Council Tax Hike Approved in Devon and Somerset

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Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service authority agrees to a council tax increase to prevent an even direr situation.

The council’s decision means that the average bills will have an increase of just over £2.50 M per year in a budget agreement to raise the funds for firefighting.

In a meeting held in Clyst St George on February 19, councillors from Devon, Somerset, Plymouth, and Torbay has come to terms on the fire service’s budget for the following year. There were two options:

• Option A – freeze council tax; prevent further hike
• Option B – increase council tax by 2.99 percent at maximum

Councillor members come up with option A. Thus, an extra £1.5 M is added to the firefighting fund for 2019/20.

Fire services have had over 25 percent cost-cutting of the central government funding — from £29.4 M in 2015/16 to about £22.6 M in 2018/19.

Chairman of the authority’s resources committee, Simon Coles expressed “regret” on the maximum allowable amount, claiming an average annual bill of £5 M would secure financial footing of fire services.

Coles argues, “The Somerset Rivers Authority, they have raised theirs by £12 per year. With Avon and Somerset Constabulary, theirs has gone up by £24 per year.

“There is a massive disparity in the funding regimes available to use.”

With the unanimously approved budget, the authority will have an overall revenue of £75.1 M for 2019/20 –- a rise of just over £1.5 M last year.

The budget includes everyday expenses and a 2% salary increase for both uniformed and non-uniformed personnel.

Meanwhile, Councillor Mark Healey backs the decision but raises concern over the budget for adult social care and children’s services. According to him, this could become a “burden on the taxpayer”. Thus, more government funding is needed.

“We need to go to the government with a proper business case on this. But paying an extra 21 pence per money is good value for money,” Healey added.

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