Funding gap labelled ‘insurmountable’

31 May 2018

Scotland's fire service may have to close stations and cut vehicles in order to meet a massive repairs bill, a spending watchdog has warned.

Audit Scotland said the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service faced a £389m backlog in vehicle and property costs, reports the BBC.

A report said annual investment of £80.4m was needed to bring assets up to "satisfactory" standards.

The Scottish government said the report recognised "real progress" since the formation of a single national force.

Audit Scotland said the funding gap was "insurmountable" without further transformation and investment, and warned of an increased risk of fire engines breaking down.

It said £37.8m a year of investment was needed just to ensure the situation did not worsen further.

Without extra capital funding, the current maintenance backlog would reach £406m over the next 10 years, it said.

Audit Scotland said it was "imperative" that the service reviewed and reshaped its capital assets, which could mean "closing, moving, sharing or changing the use of some of its properties as well as considering the range and deployment of its fleet of vehicles".

The report praised the service's "slow but steady" progress since integrating the eight former services into a single body five years ago, and commended its strong financial management.

SFRS was now in a good position to complete the process with a deal to harmonise firefighters' pay and conditions, it said.

Auditor General Caroline Gardner said: "The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service has an ambitious vision that involves significant changes to make it a more flexible, modern service.

"It now needs to press ahead with transformation so that it can respond to the changing needs of the public and can address its increasingly unsustainable model of delivery."

Original source