Shropshire fire service's £16 million reserves is largest in country
The county's fire service has the largest proportional cash reserves in England, amounting to nearly £16million, Home Office figures have revealed.
Shropshire Fire & Rescue Service’s chief officer said “leading the field” might cause some questions, but that it was not a bad thing.
He added that the government figures were slightly misleading, as they do not include the fact that some of that money is already accounted for – for example in the planned refit of Telford Central Fire Station.
Statistics published by the Home Office this week show Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service has 76 per cent of all its funds in its reserves, high above the all-England average of 43 per cent.
Cheshire and Lancashire are second and third, with 66 per cent and 62 per cent, respectively.
Essex’s reserves, at 17 per cent, are proportionally the lowest out of England’s 28 fire and rescue services.
Shropshire chief fire officer Rod Hammerton said: “I don’t see it as a bad story.
“It might provoke the question ‘How can fire and rescue services ask for more money when they are sitting on so many reserves?’
“It might provoke some questions, but they are questions we can easily answer.
“They haven’t showed the earmarked reserves and capital reserves, which gives the wrong impression.
“When you think about the cost of building a new fire station, that’s the same whether you are a £20 million fire service or a £200 million fire service.”
Mr Hammerton said the service’s medium-term strategy was to reduce its level of reserves and fund spending with loans, taking advantage of the low cost of borrowing.
He was speaking at a meeting of the Shropshire and Wrekin Fire Authority’s resources committee, held at the brigade headquarters in Shrewsbury.
Finance head Joanne Coadey presented a summary of the authority’s reserves which showed that, of the £15,984,000 held in reserve, £6.5 million was intended for use in major projects and £4.9 million was otherwise earmarked already.
The IT and communications technology reserve stands at £1.1 million, £930,000 is held for “pension liabilities and other staff issues”, while the all-purpose general reserve is £577,000.
Report by Alex Moore, Local Democracy Reporter