Funding fire and rescue authorities
Each fire and rescue authority is made up of a number of county and county borough council areas. Part IV of Schedule 1 to each of the combination orders provides the mechanism for funding the fire and rescue authorities. Under those arrangements, each constituent authority pays into the combined fire service fund a contribution equal to its proportion of the authority’s expenses for that year.
Each combined authority must, before 31st December in any year, submit to each constituent authority an estimate of its net expenses for the next financial year. Then, before 15 February they must inform each constituent authority of the contribution to be made by that authority in the next financial year. The net expenses of an authority are the amount of its expenditure less all income that is credited to the combined fire service fund other than the contributions paid by the constituent authorities.
Each constituent authority must in each financial year pay into a combined fire service fund a contribution equal to its appropriate proportion of the fire authority’s net expenses for that year. The constituent authorities must make interim payments into the fire service fund of amounts, and at intervals, as agreed by it and the authority. Provision is made in Part IV of Schedule 1 to the combination order which applies if the authorities do not agree as to the intervals at which payments should be made or as to the amounts of such payments. In the event of a disagreement about the appropriate proportion to be paid by a constituent authority, the amount is determined by reference to the population of each constituent authority.
In 2009 the three combination orders were varied to enable each fire and rescue authority to hold financial reserves (see the Combined Fire and Rescue Services Schemes (Variation) (Wales) Order 2009).
The combination orders require the fire and rescue authorities to appoint a treasurer for their combined fire services fund. Section 112 of the Local Government Finance Act 1988 places a duty on every fire and rescue authority to make arrangements for the proper administration of its financial affairs and must appoint one of its officers to be responsible for the administration of those affairs (who is referred to as the ‘chief finance officer’).
A number of pieces of legislation apply to the finance arrangements of fire and rescue authorities. They include:
- Part VIII of the Local Government Finance Act 1988,
- Part 1 of the Local Government Act 2003 (and Regulations made under Part 1 of that Act),
- Part II of the Public Audit (Wales) Act 2004,
- Part 1 of the Local Government (Wales) Measure 2009.
Broadly speaking these combine to impose requirements with respect to audit, accounting practices and efficiency.
The Welsh Ministers may, under section 29 of the Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004, provide and maintain, or contribute to the provision and maintenance of, any equipment, facilities and services they consider appropriate for promoting the economy, efficiency and effectiveness of fire and rescue authorities. They may also establish and maintain any organisation they consider appropriate for the same purpose. Charges may be imposed for the use of equipment, facilities and services provided by the Welsh Ministers or any organisation established or maintained by them.
Fire and rescue authorities are local authorities for the purposes of Part 1 of the Local Government Act 2003 which relates to local authority capital finance and accounts. They are also local government bodies for the purpose of the Public Audit (Wales) Act 2004 and are therefore subject to audit by the Auditor General for Wales and must comply with the requirements of that Act and the regulations made under it.