A county-wide council tax increase has been suggested to help fund the Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service amid budget pressures.

Recently, fire service officials predicted that it would have an overspend of £800,000 on its 2022/23 budget.

The predicted overspend is down to a variety of factors, including the increase in firefighters working overtime tackling wildfires last summer and staff pay increase negotations, which are ongoing for uniformed firefighters and fire inspectors.

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Now, the Royal Berkshire Fire Authority, which runs the fire and rescue service, is proposing a Berkshire-wide council tax increase to fund its operations.

The fire service is one of the precepting bodies that can raise council tax, along with councils, parishes, and Thames Valley Police.

The proposal is to increase the fire service tax precept by £5 to £78.95 per annum for a Band D property, with the figure varying for other tax bands.

Announcing the proposed increases, councillor Paul Gittings (Labour, Coley), chairman of the Royal Berkshire Fire Authority said: “Like all public services we are committed to delivering value for money across the services we provide.

“Nevertheless, the high rate of inflation means that we are now having to deal with significant unbudgeted cost pressures that have materialised over the last year.

“As part of its plan to balance the budget for 2023/24, Royal Berkshire Fire Authority will deliver a significant programme of savings next year.

“However, this will still leave the Fire Authority with a large funding shortfall for 2023/24, which means I am recommending that we raise the Band D precept by £5 per annum to £78.95 in order to maintain current service levels to the public.

“This will most likely still leave the authority in the lowest quartile of precepting fire authorities in the country, providing excellent services and value for money.”

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The Royal Berkshire  Fire and Rescue Service has launched an consultation on the council tax increase which can be filed out through an online survey.

The survey will be available for completion until 5pm on Monday, January 30.

The authority has pointed out that the Band D increase would cost these taxpayers under 10p extra per week, with the average Band D household paying  £1.42 per week currently.

The fire service receives 80 per cent of its funding through council taxes, with the remaining 20 per cent coming from a Government grant.

The Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service received £38.1 million from the government for the 2022/23 financial year.

The council tax increase for the fire service covers all six areas of Berkshire, including Reading Borough, Wokingham Borough, West Berkshire, Bracknell Forest, Slough Borough and the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead.

Councillors from all of the areas sit on the Royal Berkshire Fire Authority.