Fire chiefs target almost £1million savings to manage cuts and financial risks

Cleveland Chief Fire Officer, Ian Hayton.
Cleveland Chief Fire Officer, Ian Hayton.

Fire bosses are on track to save almost £1million this year in operational costs in a bid to manage future risks from funding cuts.

Cleveland Fire Authority’s Audit and Governance Committee received a report detailing it is on track to achieve a £924,000 underspend for 2018/19.

This comes after the four-year local government finance settlement confirmed funding cuts would continue until 2019/20.

By then the authority’s government funding will have taken a 17.1% drop from £15.132million in 2015/16 to £12.549million, a reduction of £2.546million.

A report from Chief Fire Officer Ian Hayton stated they were hoping savings made would help the authority manage risks in future years.

The report said: “The Government has indicated that significant changes will be made to the local government funding system from April 2020.

“Specific details are not expected to be known until late in 2019 which makes financial planning, particularly for 2020/21, extremely challenging.

“The achievement of a managed underspend for 2018/19 will help the authority manage these risks.

“An assessment of the forecast year end outturn has also been prepared and early indications are a forecast net underspend of £0.924million.”

So far £479,000 savings have been made against the projected target for the year, with the spending up to September 30 expected to be £13,508,000 but only £13,029,000 beening used.

The biggest area of underspending so far is in employee costs with the authority £678,000 under the expected budget of £11,159,000.

This is a result of a number of retirements and a new structure being put in place to manage vacant posts, according to the report.

The Cleveland Fire Authority, which covers Hartlepool, Redcar and Cleveland, Middlesbrough and Stockton, has also been boosted by an additional £229,000 funding in grant money.

This includes funds from the Emergency Services Mobile Communications Programme and an increased Firelink grant.

A slight overspend is expected in transport costs due to unscheduled vehicle maintenance, however this is also to be funded from savings in other budgets.

The total budget for operational costs for 2018/19 is £25,990,000.

A proposed strategy for using the forecast managed underspend will be developed as part of the 2019/20 budget process.

Nic Marko , Local Democracy Reporting Service