Police freeze taxes - but fire service votes for increase

AVON and Somerset Constabulary has voted to accept Government incentives to freeze council tax demands – but Avon Fire Service has rejected the offer.

Part of the money residents pay in council tax is diverted to the emergency services to pay to help keep communities safe.

Police forces and fire services around the country were all offered Government grants this year to freeze their demands – but while Avon and Somerset Police Authority has accepted the offer, Avon Fire Authority has not.

Fire chiefs argued that because the incentive is only available for one year, accepting it could mean ‘significant savings’ would need to be found next year – including the possibility of fire station closures.

This saw the fire authority agree a near-inflation rise of 3.96 per cent in its tax demands, which is the equivalent of �2.38 a year for a band D household.

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Authority chairman Terry Walker said: “I accept this was a difficult decision for members, as no-one wants to see household budgets squeezed, even if it is by a very small amount.

“However, the decision to freeze the council tax precept again this year would have led to much more difficult decisions beyond 2013, including the possible reduction in frontline staff numbers and/or fire station closures.

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“As a fire authority, we have a duty to ensure that an effective fire and rescue service is in place to serve our communities.”

However, senior police voted to accept the Government offer, after carrying out a public consultation in which 55 per cent of respondents wanted tax levels frozen.

This means the authority has agreed a �275million budget, something it has done after managing a substantial reduction in its core Westminster funding.

Police authority chairman Dr Peter Heffer said: “We must balance our communities’ needs, who for the first time in our public consultation have voted for no increase to the policing part of the council tax, against our budget position.

“Despite the changes to the policing landscape and shrinking budgets, we are developing with the Chief Constable a challenging plan for 2012/13 to keep delivering improvements.

“It is an ambitious approach with fewer resources, but together we will do everything we can to maintain an efficient, motivated and modern police service that is ready to tackle the issues that affect our communities.”

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