Fire Service to charge public for non-urgent callouts

By Matthew Bates 10/05 Updated: 11/05 12:30

MEMBERS of the public will have to pay rates of over £400-an-hour for non-emergency use of the fire service from Monday.

Calls for incidents such as lock outs, animal rescues, clearance of debris and the removal of flood water - dubbed non-emergencies by the service - will see the service charge residents.

West Midlands Fire chiefs said anyone requesting help would need to decide whether to go ahead with the call-out after being advised of expected costs.

They claimed most cases could be dealt with by other groups or people such as landlords or tradespeople.

Incidents where there is a risk of danger will remain free.

The service has a statutory duty to respond to fires, road traffic accidents and other emergencies. Watch commander Wesley Williams said it was vital they were met.

"We must ensure that genuine emergencies, which require the use of our specialist resources, receive a priority response.

"People call 999 and ask us to attend incidents when there is clearly no emergency, risk of danger, or threat to life; and we are not explicitly funded to do this."

Costs for the service start at £412.80 including VAT, per fire appliance or specialist vehicle, per hour.

Vij Randeniya, chief fire officer, added: "We have made no secret of the financial difficulties we are currently facing and with potential funding cuts of up to £30 million, it is clear we have to prioritise our resources.

"I am committed to ensuring that the people of the West Midlands receive the best possible service from us, and I hope they will support us by only using 999 for genuine emergencies."

The change comes into place following revision of the Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004, which came into force on 18 February 2012 and sets new guidelines and freedoms for fire authorities on charging for services carried out by fire and rescue services.

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