North Yorkshire Fire Service report ‘lays bare years of Tory austerity’

North Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Julia Mulligan
North Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Julia Mulligan

An independent report on the current state of the North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service has been published by the North Yorkshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner, Julia Mulligan.

The new report sets out the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats across the Fire and Rescue Service and aims to provide a baseline assessment of the state of play as governance is transferred from the North Yorkshire Fire Authority to the Commissioner.

But North Yorkshire Brigade Secretary Steve Howley said the report, written by former Oxfordshire Chief Fire Officer Dave Etheridge OBE, laid bare the results of Tory Austerity and year-on-year cuts to central funding.

Among the strengths identified are the impressive record of reduction in fires and other emergencies over many years as well as effective partnership working.

However, serious challenges are identified – primarily the ‘unsustainable’ financial position caused by relying on reserves to ‘plug’ the financial gap.

Julia Mulligan will now:

• Establish a Finance Working Group, to be led by the North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service, to identify savings, set an emergency budget and enable the service to live within its means. Due to the serious financial situation, this will be asked to report before the end of March 2019.

• Work together with the North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service leadership, firefighters and staff to develop a long-term fundamental service review, covering all strategic aspects of the service.

Julia Mulligan said: “We have incredibly hardworking firefighters and staff in North Yorkshire. Over recent weeks I have met with many of them, spoken with them and listened to their views. I will continue to do this now the transfer of governance has taken place.

“In the meetings I have been struck by their willingness to look at how we can work together to develop a Fire and Rescue Service that is fit for the future, and I am committed to ensuring everyone is fully involved in these discussions.”

In response, North Yorkshire Brigade Secretary Steve Howley said: “This report lays bare the results of Tory Austerity, NYFRS has seen year on year cuts to central funding for almost a decade.

“NYFRS are currently enduring cuts of 18% to funding between 2016 and 2020, there is no wonder Mrs Mulligan’s report shows a service with a financial black hole and response times 2.4 minutes longer than the average in England.

“The FBU will continue to strive to defend and improve fire cover and protect public and firefighter safety in North Yorkshire irrespective of the continuation of Tory Austerity.”