Concerns raised over Nottinghamshire fire service finances after ‘decade of austerity’

Concerns over Nottinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service’s finances have been raised after was revealed there could be a £2 million funding gap in its budget next year.

By Anna Whittaker
Thursday, 19th May 2022, 12:35 pm

One councillor asked for reassurance that there would be no cuts to wholetime firefighters during a meeting.

Chief Fire Officer Craig Parkin, who took on the role this year, said that some of the issues may go away if there was more funding made available, which he added was unlikely.

A report published ahead of the Nottinghamshire Fire Authority policy and strategy committee meeting stated a ‘potential funding gap in excess of £2m has been identified for 2023/24 and beyond’.

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Chief Fire Officer Craig Parkin, of Nottinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service.

The service currently has an 11 or 12 per cent vacancy rate, which Mr Parkin admitted is good in the sense it saves the service money, but said it means current employees have to pick up more work.

He said about 75 per cent of the current budget is spent on pay, which means people working for the service ‘cannot go unaffected’.

He said: “These are now becoming significant cuts.”

Mr Parkin told councillors: “The reality is we’ve had more than a decade of austerity and that appears to continue.

“The drivers for that may be different in terms of inflation and the effects of global issues particularly around Europe.

“The problem is not going away and I think if inflation carries on, that may linger further over to other financial years.

“We may have to look at a longer-term plan.

“In my time over the last decade, we’ve gone from something in excess of 1100 staff to just more than 800 staff.

“Just like any public sector body, there have been significant 25 to 30 per cent reductions in that time.”

The report stated: “The service’s 2032 ambition to be ‘outstanding’, fully aligns with the duty for continuous improvement. However, given the expectations on the sector and growing demands highlighted in this report, it is likely adjustments will be required to the establishment and structure of it.”

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Reality

Coun Tom Hollis, Nottinghamshire Council member for Sutton West, said: “We’re in the reality where there isn’t as much money about as there once was.

“I’d hope there are certain red lines we’re going to be putting in to say this is the thing we won’t consider cutting.

“You’ll be aware of some of the problems at Ashfield where we have had cuts to the fire station and sadly we’ve had some quite serious incidents which – who’s to say – would have turned out differently if we had a whole-time service.

“From my perspective, we are keen to ensure the full-time firefighters are the last thing we look at changing.

“It certainly concerns me when we hear things like recruitment is being pushed back because that ultimately means there are less boots on the ground when we need them.”

Mr Parkin replied: “All I can see is we will take the data and look at the information and come back to you with our best advice for you to consider and scrutinise in autumn.”

Mr Parkin said he had drafted a letter to all MPs in the county to invite them to lobby on the subject.