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Fire and Rescue Service

Volume 558: debated on Monday 4 February 2013

19. What assessment he has made of the local government finance settlement 2013-14 and its effect on fire services in Devon and Somerset; and if he will make a statement. [R] (140767)

Grant reductions to the fire and rescue authorities are back-loaded in the spending review period, allowing them to make sensible savings without impacting on the quality of local services. Rightly, operational activities are decided by each authority, subject to local consultation.

I declare an indirect interest in the interests of my right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Mr Raynsford). On 6 December, during a visit to Taunton, the Minister seemed impressed by Devon and Somerset fire service’s plan to make significant —I repeat, significant—savings through efficiencies and lower fuel costs by purchasing light rescue pumps, yet when push came to shove, the fire service, ravaged by cuts and trying to find innovative ways to reduce costs, was told, “Sorry, no, you can’t have those pumps.” Why did he change his mind in the space of a few weeks?

As the hon. Lady outlined, I had a very good visit to Somerset and saw some of the plans that people have for how they want to take things forward to save money, which is exactly what many fire authorities across the country should be looking at. It is also why Devon and Somerset will be receiving £2.7 million of capital money in 2013-15.