Fire services cost heats up Budget debate

WITH a total budget of €2.7 million, the cost of the county’s fire service was a hot topic for criticism by several Offaly County Councillors this week.

WITH a total budget of €2.7 million, the cost of the county’s fire service was a hot topic for criticism by several Offaly County Councillors this week.

The cost of the service was questioned during Offaly County Council’s budget discussions this week when figures showed that the service provision for 2012 is estimated to cost €2,794,344 which includes €2.3 million for the its operation, €132,500 for fire service training, and a further €346.388 for service support costs.

Speaking during the budget debate, Fine Gael Councillor, Tommy McKeigue requested quarterly reports on the Fire Services and voiced serious concerns about the high cost of the fire services in the county.

Cllr McKeigue noted that during last year’s debate on the issue, which led to the closure of three fires stations, the councillors were told that cost efficiencies would be looked at for the service.

“However, it hasn’t made much of a difference this year. We will have to go further on this” the councillor said.

Independent Councillor, Johnny Butterfield also voiced concerns about the fire services budget. “People have the right to have this explained,” he stressed.

Fianna Fail Councillor, Ger Plunkett suggested taking more from the Fire Services budget. “We were assured that cost efficiencies would be looked at,” he said, noting the current cost of the service provision.

“I am not happy with this. We should reduce this and make more on the effort on it. We need a better balance in the service and I am looking forward to the operations report.”

Fine Gael councillor, Nichola Hogan was also disappointed with the fire service budget. “We took hard decisions last year and closed three stations,” she said, pointing out that there is the same budget for the five stations in 2012 and was looking forward to updates on the fire service cost efficiencies.

Pat Gallagher, the County Manager, said that the cost of the fire services had been increasing over the last ten years and the Council had to put plans in place to control this cost while providing a service with health and safety requirements.