Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes councils have announced that they will be reducing the Fire Authority precept by 1% this year. This statement probably does not mean a lot to many people, so let us explain a little further.
In the political world, a precept is a requirement from one organisation that a second organisation should collect money on its behalf. Across the UK, local councils collect money through council tax, which is then passed on to other organisations such as the police and the fire authorities. These are precepts, and are usually shown separately on the annual council tax bills sent out to householders. In practice, this means that householders only get one bill per year, rather than a number of smaller bills. It also makes the collection of payments and the recovery of arrears much simpler.
In the case of Fire Authorities, the precept varies across the UK from about £50 to as much
as £112 per household per year. This money, along with direct grant funding from central government forms the annual budget of the individual fire authorities.
Since the start of the ongoing economic downturn, all of the public sector has been under pressure to streamline operations in order to reduce costs, and therefore reduce the tax burden on the UK population. Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes Fire Authority reports that, as a result of their innovative approach to staffing and combined working with other authorities, they have successfully reduced the cost of providing their service, and therefore do not need as much money as they did in previous years. Accordingly, they have requested that Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes councils collect a smaller precept on their behalf.
Although the Fire Authority believes that this will have no impact on frontline services, it is inevitable that there will be less money available for secondary functions, such as fire safety training. The Fire Authority has already separated this function from its core services and set up an arms-length private company to deliver it.
Fire Safety Training
Businesses should be aware that it is sensible to invest in improved fire safety training. Fire safety training has been a legal requirement on all businesses since the introduction of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. However, there is more to fire safety training than simply meeting legal obligations; every year more than 30 people die as a result of fires in the workplace.
Fire safety training helps a business to identify where the fire risks exist, as this differs from company to company, and to know exactly what precautions to take. It also ensures that there are employees trained to know how to deal with small outbreaks to prevent them spreading, and ensures that staff evacuation plans are up to date and safe to use.
At a time of cutbacks in the statutory services, businesses need to make sure that they are prepared for the worst eventualities. Make sure you are safe, keep your fire safety training up to date, and protect your employees, customers and premises.