Proposed fire and rescue merger decision delayed

EAST Sussex Fire Authority and West Sussex County Council have both agreed to wait for further information from the government before making a final decision on the proposed merger of their fire and rescue services.

Both the fire authority and the county council had expected a business case would be completed in time for a final decision on the proposed merger to be taken at their respective meetings in December.

Councillor Pete Bradbury, West Sussex County Council cabinet member for public protection, said:

“A key element of the business case concerned the financial implications of merging, in particular how future funding for all Fire and Rescue Services from government grants would impact on council tax and how it would deliver financial sustainability for the newly merged Service.

“At a recent meeting with DCLG officials it became clear that some key financial information would not be available until the outcomes of a national review of local government financing currently being undertaken are announced by the Government.”

The business case identifies how joint savings of up to �£3.8 million per annum could be achieved from a merger to meet the previously expected government grant reductions without any detriment to local community services.

Councillor Bradbury added: “Without the information from DCLG on grant and council tax implications we cannot be certain these will turn into cashable savings, not can we be clear about the effects on council tax for residents across Sussex.”

Councillor John Livings, chairman of East Sussex Fire Authority, said:

“We will review the situation again when further information becomes available and when we have had time to consider the outcomes of the Government review.”