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W YORKS FIRE AUTHORITY RECEIVES CASH WINDFALL

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West Yorkshire's fire chiefs today learned that their appeal for extra funding had led to a£530,000 cash windfall....
West Yorkshire's fire chiefs today learned that their appeal for extra funding had led to a£530,000 cash windfall.

This means the average householder may have to pay less than 5p a week extra for their fire service next year.

A perverse incentive in the national funding formula which fails to reward fire authorities with the best community fire safety records was set to cost the county more than£1m. in central government support grant.

However, following intense lobbying from the fire authority and local members of parliament led by Ann Taylor, ministers have announced new figures which will effectively provide a financial safety net whilst the formula undergoes a major overhaul for 2003/4.

'I know that Ann, Paul Truswell MP and others have put in an enormous amount of work over recent weeks and it appears as if someone has finally woken up and taken notice,' said authority chair Ray Mitchell.

'We initially feared that some Whitehall mandarins might just see us as small fry but we were convinced that we had a morally watertight case. It cannot be right for central government to walk away from those authorities which have been most successful in reducing fire deaths and unnecessary fire calls and then leave local council taxpayers to pick up the tab.'

Cllr Mitchell said that householders had been facing critical cuts in operational cover or a 13-14 per cent hike in the precept. Essential services could now be protected and the precept increase held at about 9.4 per cent, or less than 5p a week.

Chief fire officer Phil Toase said he was delighted that the people of West Yorkshire were not to suffer swingeing penalties for the authority's pioneering fire safety work.

'It is accepted by everyone that the funding formula is flawed - all we wanted was help to bridge us over to a new and better system.'

Mr Toase said it was now essential that those responsible for drawing up the new formula try to be more realistic about the costs of running a vital emergency service and the importance of encouraging local enterprise.

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