Fire chiefs confirm rise in charge for Sunderland council tax payers

Families are due to see the amount they pay for firefighters increase again later this year.

Monday, 17th February 2020, 6:19 pm
Updated Tuesday, 18th February 2020, 9:42 am
Picture c/o PA

Fire chiefs have agreed to increase their portion of annual council tax bills by the maximum allowed by law for 2020/21.

The decision means a ‘basic’ band D property in Sunderland, Newcastle, Gateshead or North or South Tyneside will see the fire and rescue ‘precept’ they must pay rise by 2% to £83.97 from April.

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The precept, currently set at £82.33 for a band D home, is one of several parts of the yearly charge levelled on households, including separate parts for police and ‘core council tax’ set by local authorities.

In recent years Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS) has relied increasingly on cash raised through council tax.

Robert Oliver, a Conservative member of the Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Authority, which oversees the brigade, said: “This fire service has dealt well with the deficit left in 2010.

“There is no evidence that reduced funding has had a detrimental impact on Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, and residents highly rate it.

“TWFRS is also one of the fastest-responding of all fire services in England, which is really what matters to residents.”

Coun Oliver was speaking at a meeting of the authority.

Nick Forbes, Labour leader of Newcastle City Council, accused him of reading a Conservative ‘press release’ and of trying to ‘blow smoke in the face’ of voters.

He said: “Over the last 10 years the Conservative government has shifted funding from central government to council tax payers, firefighters have lost jobs and we’ve lost 10,000 home safety checks in the last year alone.”

Sunderland’s Coun Michael Butler asked if lives must be lost before funding is boosted.

Speaking after the meeting, Wayne Anderson, Fire Brigades Union Tyne and Wear secretary, said: “You cannot deny 10 years of austerity has lost jobs and fire engines and we have an increased risk because of that.

“You cannot lose as many jobs as we have and not have that, that is an extra burden to bear.”