I recently explained why I will be supporting the new London Safety Plan with its focus on maintaining attendance time standards but I also wanted to cover how the Fire Brigade has been making itself more financially efficient over the last few years.
Under the last government public spending grew faster than our ability to pay for it, this deficit created unprecedented levels of public borrowing. The new government is committed to cutting the deficit and bringing public spending under control, clearly that means difficult and unpopular decisions. The London Fire Brigade has borne its share of this spending restraint.
Cutting budgets is easy, you just cut them! Cutting budgets while protecting the delivery of public services is a more skillful activity and I’m proud that the Ron Dobson, London’s Fire Commissioner, and the Firefighters and Fire & Recuse Service Staff that he leads have done just that.
At its peak in the financial year 2010/11 of nearly £440 million a year, the Fire Brigade’s costs have come down to just under £380 million a year. Over that same period the Brigade has continued its excellent record of reducing deaths and injuries from fires, increasing its fire prevention work and beating our attendance time targets.
Our financial rigour has enabled the Mayor to fulfill his commitment to freeze and then cut his share of Londoners’ Council Tax bills. For a Band D property the Mayor’s share of the bill was £309 in 2009 which is coming down to £303 this year. If the bill had gone up by just 2% per year (much less than the increases actually imposed under Ken Livingstone) the bill this year would have been almost £370, meaning you are £66 better off.
The Fire Brigade’s proportion of this sum is quite small representing about £15 of that £66 saving but as a well-known supermarket brand says “every little helps”.