Warning over funding threat to fire service

The fire service could be thrown back to the pre-Celtic Tiger days of second-hand vehicles if the Government slashes funding, it was warned today.

The fire service could be thrown back to the pre-Celtic Tiger days of second-hand vehicles if the Government slashes funding, it was warned today.

Around €20m has been pledged for capital projects in 2009, down three million on last year, according to the Chief Fire Officers Association.

At its annual conference in Mullingar chairman Michael Raftery warned cutbacks could have long-term consequences for the service.

“It is vitally important that capital funding is maintained at current levels into the future to maintain essential infrastructure for buildings, appliances, equipment and communications,” Mr Raftery said.

“We do not want to return to the bad old days of the early 90s with second-hand vehicles.

“The danger is that the policy options of the early 90s may now be repeated again in the current climate where lack of immediate finances may lead to poor short-term decision-making to the detriment of long development of the Fire Service.”

Mr Raftery said funding in the early 90s amounted to only four or five million pounds, with second-hand vehicles brought-in from the UK.

He said the fire service must not be hit by the ’boom-bust’ cycle of the economy.

“A robust funding system for the fire service locally must be established and the fire service should not be constrained by the boom-bust cycle and be seen to be in competition with other local services for funding,” he said.

He said funding was funnelled through local authorities, which have been hit with reduced national allocations from Central Government this year.

The association chief highlighted a 2002 review which recommended funding the fire service locally with either a levy on insurance companies or a local community charge.

“While there has to be reform of the fire service in general, the CFOA will work with other partners, including the Department Of Environment Heritage And Local Government, to establish a more robust funding regime for the Fire Service.”

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