Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Authority has approved a budget of £55.8 million for 2019-20.

At its meeting yesterday (12 February), the Authority agreed to increase its share of the council tax by 4p per week for Band D properties in Bournemouth, Dorset, Poole, Swindon and Wiltshire – an annual fire precept for Band D of £74.87 for the Fire and Rescue Service for the year starting on 1 April 2019.

Chief Fire Officer Ben Ansell said: “Elected Members and Officers had lobbied for the freedoms and flexibilities to increase the fire precept for Band D properties by £5, to help to ease budget pressures caused by the loss of central government grant funding, but the Fire and Rescue Authority was only given the opportunity to increase by 2.99%, or £2.17, on last year. In addition, we saw another reduction in our grant funding, receiving £467,000 or 3.2% less than 2018-19. While this was expected, it remains one of the highest funding reductions for any combined fire authority in England.

“Despite this, we are committed to recruiting more on-call firefighters, who are so vital to our predominantly rural Service, and to maintaining our commitment to prevention and protection activities. Whether working in schools, delivering Safe & Well visits to people in their homes, or following up on the fire safety lessons coming out of the Grenfell Tower fire, our priority remains to change and save lives.”

Cllr Spencer Flower, Chairman of Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Authority, added: “Our Fire and Rescue Service delivers so much to our local communities – people are very aware of the 24/7 emergency response, but there is also a wealth of education, prevention and protection work being carried out every single day to help people to stay safe. The decisions made by Members continue our commitment to maintaining this excellent service to local people.”

The Authority also received a paper on the gender pay gap within Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service. As is the case for Fire and Rescue Services nationally, its operational workforce is predominantly male, with slightly more females in corporate roles.

As a result, there is a mean gender pay gap of 10.38%, even though the same salary is paid to roles of equal value for all staff, regardless of gender. The DWFRS gender pay gap is below the national average and compares favourably to other Fire and Rescue Services. Several initiatives are in place to address this, including:

  • Recruitment processes to help rebalance workforce composition
  • Encouraging more female applicants into the Service
  • Apprenticeships
  • Female support networks to help retain staff
  • Established training programmes for managers and staff about equality, diversity and inclusion
  • Reviewing and improving workplace facilities for women, to help provide a welcoming and supportive environment

CFO Ansell said: “We are working hard to address our pay gap and we are committed to ensuring that we have a diverse workforce that fully reflects the communities we serve. We have many initiatives in place to progress this.”

Also approved by the Authority at its February meeting were a number of revised corporate targets, ahead of a full review of the Community Safety Plan later this year. The new targets have been designed to provide a clearer statement of intent for the Service’s response and prevention activity.