West Midlands Fire Service has collected nearly £10,000 in controversial call out charges since they were introduced 10 weeks ago.

In total, 17 people were charged by the fire service for calls that were deemed to be non-emergency cases.  A charge was levied when the brigade felt there was no danger to life and the job they were called out for could have been done by another service.

Call out charges were applied to people stuck in lifts, people whose houses have been flooded and for chemical spills. People can be charged a fee of £412.80 per hour for every appliance or specialist vehicle called out under the rules, which came into force on May 14.

During the period, about 260 call-out charges were made that were classed as inappropriate, and could have had charges levied on them - meaning the force only charged on 7% of calls. The most common call-out was for people locked out of their house.

Fire chiefs say they need to charge for 'inappropriate' call-outs to offset savings of £30 million the service needs to make.

Watch Commander Wesley Williams said: "The principle of the policy is to filter out inappropriate special service calls, where other service providers are better suited. We have so far invoiced for £9,718 excluding VAT. When you consider that for the entirety of the last financial year we were only able to recover £31,000 for the taxpayer, there is every indication that the policy is working."

Story posted on 6/8/2012