Herts County Council to charge per hour for cross-border fire service use

PUBLISHED: 17:20 28 November 2019

Fire crew attended an incident earlier in Wheathampstead Road, Harpenden involving a person trapped inside a vehicle. Picture: Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service.

Fire crew attended an incident earlier in Wheathampstead Road, Harpenden involving a person trapped inside a vehicle. Picture: Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service.

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Hertfordshire County Council is set to increase charges to its neighbouring councils for using its fire service.

Currently, Herts Fire and Rescue Service charges £322 every time it's called to an incident in a neighbouring county, but that flat charge takes no account of the number of appliances that are involved or the number of hours they remain there.

Now fire chiefs have drawn up plans to charge by the hour - which means instead of charging £322 per incident, the charge would increase to £322 an hour.

And on Monday last week, the increase in the charges got the go-ahead at a meeting of the council's cabinet.

It's estimated that the increased charges will bring in an additional £90,000 a year to the county council from neighbouring fire authorities.

But, the executive member for community safety and waste management, county councillor Terry Hone said that aside from the income the move has been driven by the principle that the council should recoup the costs it incurs.

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"We think it's the right thing to do", he said.

According to a report, over the past three years Hertfordshire was called on to give assistance to Cambridge on 337 occasions, Bedfordshire 236, Essex 364 and Buckinghamshire 91.

In return Hertfordshire asked for far less support from their neighbours - with data suggesting they received assistance from Cambridge on five occasions, Bedfordshire 89, Essex 90 and Buckinghamshire 45.

The data shows that Hertfordshire gave 353 hours of assistance to London fire crews - and received 24 hours of assistance back.

Conservative councillor Hone, representing North Herts, also pointed to a recent evening when pumps from Hertfordshire were called to house fires over the South Cambridge border, twice.

And suggested that some authorities could rely on others rather than 'manning up' and 'tooling up' themselves.

Fire services are allowed to charge neighbouring services in order to recoup their costs under the Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004 but legally the level of those costs cannot be set to include a profit margin.

The Act states: "The authority's income from charges does not exceed the cost to the authority of taking the action for which the charges were imposed."

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