Fire authorities will have £600 million less to spend on keeping the public safe from harm in five years compared to 2011/12, according to a new report released ahead of this week's Local Government Association Annual Fire Conference.

The LGA say that FRSs will have to undergo "major reforms" if the service is to be sustained.

Cllr Kay Hammond, Chairman of the LGA’s Fire Services Management Committee, said: “Fire authorities are having to make hard choices. On one hand they are faced with unprecedented cuts to their budgets, while on the other they continue to have a duty to provide the same level of fire protection to their communities as they always have.

“It’s clear that something has to give and the area that is most at risk is activity such as community safety schemes. The irony is that this comes at a time when the demographics of our country are changing, with people living longer and the number of elderly and vulnerable people rising.

“Fire authorities are already doing things differently in order to manage the decline in funding and they will continue to eke out efficiencies through measures such as shared service arrangements, reducing the number of fire stations and new flexible employment practices. But it is clear that without major reforms to the service this will not be enough to sustain it in the future.

In the ‘Fire Future Funding Report’, the LGA, which represents the 46 fire authorities in England, warns that funding for community prevention schemes is likely to suffer the most from budget cuts.

Funding reductions mean that less money will be available to the fire service for work such as testing smoke alarms as well as advising residents on safety measures and how to prevent fires.

However, research shows that over the past decade, as the amount of money spent on prevention work has increased, the number of fires and fatalities has fallen significantly.

Youth education programmes, for example, are estimated to achieve savings of £1.85 for every £1 spent by helping to reduce the number of fires set deliberately.

According to analysis by the LGA, government funding for the fire and rescue service will fall by £300 million from £1 billion in 2011/12 to £700 million in 2017/18. At the same time expenditure is expected to rise from £2.1 billion in 2011/12 to £2.4 billion in 2017/18.

As fire authorities must balance their budgets they will, by 2017/18, have to spend 30 per cent less annually compared to 2011/12. This would be equivalent to a reduction of nearly 40 per cent of the workforce.

According to the report, the cuts are already starting to bite with fire authorities reporting a drop of 7 per cent in the number of home fire safety checks carried out in 2011/12 than in the previous year.

FIRE will have full event coverage from the LGA Annual Fire Conference on 12-13 March, follow @fire_editor on Twitter & check the website for more updates.

Posted 12/3/2013 by