Council tax increase for fire services approved amid COVID-19 shortfall

Written by Frazer MacDonald

Council tax in Sheffield is set to go up in April.

Sheffield City Council unanimously approved the increase today.

The proposed change is intended to improve funding for the city’s fire service. There will be a 1.99% increase, the highest increase possible without holding a referendum.

In the previous financial year, funding for the fire services was down by £750,000.

The coronavirus pandemic saw the number of people claiming universal credit soar and a huge range of businesses close down, and the slash in funding was deemed necessary by the Council.

Stuart Booth, Director of Finance and Resources for the South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Team, claimed Sheffield’s Fire Service will now be able to employ around 100 more firefighters. He said it would also give firefighters a further incentive to apply for promotions.

Mr Booth also stated that the South Yorkshire fire service currently employs around 500 people.

Chris Kirby, Deputy Chief Fire Officer for the South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue team, said: “South Yorkshire is one of the only fire services that pay a competent rate of pay when they are promoted.”

In other parts of the country, firefighters are given a lower rate of pay while training for a promotion.

Views among the council members were generally positive. Councillor Steve Ayris said: “Bringing in extra council tax is a sticky plaster, not a long term strategy. I will be supporting this.”

There were no objections to the motion.

However, there are elements which bring into question the need for a tax increase. There was a 3% decrease on the number of fire service call outs in England in the previous financial year, with a total of 539,225 incidents.

The increase in council tax is set to be 3p a week, which has been estimated to provide fire services in Sheffield with an extra £530,000 in the next financial year.

The tax increase will come into force on 1 April 2021.

Written by Frazer MacDonald

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