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ACC CHALLENGES GOVERNMENT TO HELP FIRE SERVICE

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The fire service will be crippled by a£400m pensions deficit by 2003 without government help, the Association of C...
The fire service will be crippled by a £400m pensions deficit by 2003 without government help, the Association of County Councils says.

It is calling for more money for brigades next year to help contain the skyrocketing costs of the scheme. In 1997/8, the pension deficit borne by fire authorities will top £205m nationally.

That is straining budgets at the same time government support for the service is declining in real terms. It only put £17m more into fire protection this year. And the increase was more than swallowed up by the pensions shortfall.

Now county leaders fear that fire funding will be hammered by another cut when the local government finance settlement is announced later this month. Fire authorities need at least £64m more next year to cope with inflation, the firefighters pay settlement, pensions, and the cost of implementing new legislation, says the ACC. The cost of replacing deteriorating vehicles and buildings means they need to increase their capital spending by another £85m.

At the ACC's annual conference in Eastbourne today, Mick Warner, fire and emergency planning committee chairman, will challenge ministers to properly fund the fire service.

He said: 'The government cannot go on inflicting cuts on fire brigades without affecting their ability to save lives. Ministers have to acknowledge the overwhelming case for increasing fire funding in 1997/98. It will cost brigades five per cent more next year just to provide the same level of cover as this year.'

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