Members of the Kent and Medway Fire and Rescue Authority (KMFRA)* will agree the consultation process for a two year Safety and Wellbeing Plan which is expected to be out for public consultation between 16 November 2015 to 18 January 2016.
The consultation plan has no plans to close any stations. However, the Kent Fire and Rescue Service (KFRS) is looking to balance the issues of changing risk around the county and falling demand (50 per cent over the last decade) with the expectation that it is likely to need to make savings of at least £8m over the next four years reflecting the anticipated reductions in Government grant and funding commitments.
To meet that challenge KFRS has been looking at how it can modernise and develop new ways of working that will save money while continuing to deliver the best possible service for local people.
New equipment and new ways of working introduced over the last year have enabled KFRS to fight fires and deal with road crashes more effectively. That equipment has already helped prevent fire spread, reduce water damage and help save property at a number of large fires this year, including the Chatham recycling plant.
Alongside that, more flexible shift patterns are being introduced. Trials are underway to move some crews and engines closer to risk areas during the day, e.g. nearer to major roads so they can get to crashes as quickly as possible. KFRS attends over 800 crashes every year in Kent and Medway.
Preventing fires and accidents is still a priority and KFRS community safety work has helped see fire and incidents fall by half over the last decade. The Service is also extending its work with partners such as health and South East Coast Ambulance Service (SECAmb). This kind of sensible approach to collaborative working means we can all work more effectively, save money and deliver a good service to local people.
Nick Chard, Chairman of the Kent and Medway Fire and Rescue Authority said:
"Our job is to keep the public safe. That is always our top priority and our firefighters continue to deliver an excellent service.
"However we need to provide that safe and efficient service while balancing changing local needs, falling demand - thanks to our community safety investment - and a reducing budget.
"We will know the exact amount of Government funding allocated to us in December 2015. We expect that means we have to make savings of around £8m over the next four years.
"Despite that we believe that the plans we have put in place over the last few years have provided a good foundation to meet that challenge. Our previous investment in new equipment is already paying off, helping us fight fires more effectively. We are also looking at new ways of working that are more flexible and responsive to local needs. In these ways we can make the necessary savings whilst still maintaining the effective service that local people want."
The consultation will also include options for next year's KMFRA proportion of the Council Tax. Options are for a 0 per cent freeze, an increase of just under 2 per cent or an above 2 per cent rise.
The consultation will be online at www.kent.fire-uk.org from 16 November 2015 until 18 January 2016. Anyone wanting a paper copy of the plan and questionnaire can call on 01622 692 121.
Note to Editors
*Policy and Performance Committee, 4 November 2015
- the draft plan goes to the P&P committee of KMFRA on 4 November where elected councillors will decide if the plan can go out to public.
- Once agreed the draft plan and questionnaire will be online for consultation from 16 November 2015 to 18 January 2016.
- The final report with consultation comments goes to the full Kent and Medway Fire and Rescue Authority in February 2015 for decision.