The amount of money residents in the West Midlands pay for the fire service is to be frozen for the second year running after councillors voted against a plan to increase levels.
A plan had been put forward to increase the share of money West Midlands Fire Service received from the council tax – its precept – by one per cent.
It would have meant a typical Band D council tax payer faced a rise of 15p a month, but councillors on the fire authority rejected it.
They said it was not fair to make families pay more during hard economic times and set the budget at £38.454 million.
By not putting up its precept to four per cent, councillors were told the authority could lose as much as £1.6 million from its budget from 2013 onwards.
Under the Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review, the fire service lost £7.6m from its government grant in the current financial year and will lose another £2.4m in the next 12 months.
It will find out in November how much it will lose from 2013 to 2015, but has been warned the cuts are being backloaded, which means they will be more severe.
Chairman of the authority, Sandwell Labour councillor John Edwards, was in favour of the increase.
“It would build real money into the base to help us through the last few years of the Comprehensive Spending Review,” he said.
“It will be a negligible increase for council tax payers but it will change our reliance on government grants in favour of local taxes.
“We are now really exposed to decreases in government funding.”
But Coun Neil Eustace (Lib Dem, Birmingham) said: “We know we’ve got problems coming towards us. But with people struggling with their finances, we have to stick with a freeze. It’s the best thing we can do for the people of the West Midlands.”
Coun Peter Hogarth (Con, Solihull) agreed with the move, saying: “I’m pleased we are having a freeze because although we say things will get worse, we will have to see whether that happens.”