South Wales Fire And Rescue Service Hq In Llantrisant.
South Wales Fire And Rescue Service Hq In Llantrisant. Picture From Google

Torfaen taxpayers will pay £5.7m to South Wales Fire and Rescue Service (SWFRS) during 2024/25, an increase of £366,268 or 6.77%.

Budget proposals approved by the recently appointed commissioners for South Wales Fire and Rescue Service on Monday, February 12, will see a 7.23% increase in the budget from this year with it being worth a total of £95.8m.

It was approved by the four independent commissioners who have taken over the running of the service from the fire authority which was stripped of its responsibilities by Welsh Government following a damning report published in January exposing a “sexist and misogynist culture” within the service.

The budget report said that this increase assumes that the Welsh Government will transfer additional fire fighter pension funding to constituent councils in the final local government settlement in accordance with the practice it started at this stage last year.

It added that without this funding change the underlying like-for-like increase in the revenue budget would be 5.8%.

The provisional local government funding settlement announced in December included an overall 3.1% increase for Welsh councils.

The report said the impact of the cost of living crisis and problems forecasting pay and price inflation has caused significant turbulence in the last two financial years with a budget significantly lower than comparable funding increases in local councils in 2022-23 and higher in 2023-24.

It said that cumulatively increases in fire budgets remain lower than the comparative levels in constituent councils over the period.

The report said that £2.5m of reserves will be committed in the current year and a further £1.2m in 2024-25.

If approved each of the 10 councils which are covered by South Wales Fire and Rescue Service would contribute these amounts:

  • Bridgend would contribute £9.08m which is a rise of £565,942 or 6.64%
  • Vale Of Glamorgan would contribute £8.3m which is a rise of £523,809 or 6.73%
  • Rhondda Cynon Taf would contribute £14.8m which is a rise of £922,933 or 6.62%
  • Merthyr Tydfil would contribute £3.6m which is a rise of £186,314 or 5.36%
  • Caerphilly would contribute £10.9m which is a rise of £572,705 or 5.52%
  • Blaenau Gwent would contribute £4.1m which is a rise of £214,331 o
  • Monmouthshire would contribute £5.8m which is a rise of £367,505 or 6.72%
  • Newport would contribute £10.04m which is a rise of £802,209 or 8.68%
  • Cardiff would contribute £23.1m which is a rise of £942,746 or 9.16%

The report said that population changes impact directly on the level of budget contributions from individual councils and that the budget assumes additional grant of £1.266m will transfer into the local government settlement.

Given the current uncertainty of the transfer, a recommendation is that powers are delegated to the treasurer to change the approved budget if for any reason additional grant funding for pensions is paid directly to the fire service.

The capital budget would add up to £16.3m with £7.6m slippage from this year and £8.7m for next year covering things like property, fleet, and ICT.

Some of the considerations the authority has taken into account include pay inflation, pension costs, setting budgets in the absence of confirmation of central funding for the coming year, the widening of the role of the fire fighter, temporary staffing costs, and energy and external contract costs.

They have also considered unavoidable inflationary pressures on budgets like communication systems, ICT, operational equipment and fleet, the capital programme, capital financing costs, Welsh Government grant funding announcements and over £2.05m worth of reductions which have been identified with around £250,000 worth of consequential budget increases leading to a net £1.8m budget reduction.

The four independent commissioners are Baroness Wilcox, former leader of Newport City Council and peer in the House of Lords. Kirsty Williams, former Lib Dem MS for Brecon and Radnorshire, Vij Randeniya, former chief fire officer at West Midlands fire service and Carl Foulkes, former chief constable at North Wales Police.

Baroness Wilcox said she’s happy to agree the budget but said she’s keen that it’s minuted that they revisit it more regularly than perhaps normal.

She said with the issues around sums available, pensions and funding from councils and grants they’ll need to keep a much closer eye on it.

She said for the sake of the process they will pass it but with a close eye on what they’re doing and regular updates.