Fire service buys ‘pre-loved’ appliances to cut costs

Photo: Richmond Fire Station.

North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service has revealed it has started buying “pre-loved fire engines” to replace its decades old appliances as a means of balancing its books.

Despite charging residents three per cent more next year for its services and making £540,000 of savings for the second year in succession, a meeting of North Yorkshire and York’s police, fire and crime panel heard the service was “very close to breaking” due to a lack of Government funding.

The meeting heard the service had recently replaced part of its 20-year-old fleet with 11-year-old appliances from a fire service that was replacing its equipment with brand new vehicles.

Chief fire officer Jonathan Dyson said the national standard was for all fire appliances to be replaced by their 15th year because after that time it became “incredibly difficult” to replace parts, but North Yorkshire’s relatively low use of appliances meant fire engines faced less wear and tear.

He said: “Whichever face I turn someone is unhappy about what we’re trying to do here. Everything is being directed towards frontline prevention or appliances and crew.”

Chief financial officer Michael Porter said while the service had ordered 16 brand new vehicles, 12 of which would be delivered next year, it was also in the process of trying to buy another 15 second-hand appliances.

He said: “The age of those 15 will be in the region of six to seven years old, so that will mean we will have 31 which will be relatively new, that’s about three-quarters of our appliance stock within the service.”

Panel member and former judge Martin Walker told the meeting he was particularly concerned about the service’s ability to replace its ageing appliances.

He said: “With the best will in the world, due to financial constraints, having to buy 11-year-old vehicles, however well maintained or well built they are, is a timebomb. Even with small fire engines, which are becoming more of the norm… we are not talking about a small amount of money.”

Mr Porter said even though the fire service had learnt it would receive about £400,000 more from the Government than it had been expecting last month, it would face significant financial distress for years to come if the nationally agreed pay rise for firefighters was above three per cent.

Police, fire and crime commissioner Zoe Metcalfe nodded as Mr Porter told the panel: “It does continue to be exceptionally challenging and tight. The 2.99 per cent proposed increase is below what we expect inflation to be for the financial year and is certainly below what we’re seeing in our cost increases.”

The meeting heard a survey had revealed if the fire service had been allowed by the Government to levy a precept increase of £5, more than 50 per cent of the public would have supported such a move.

Members were also told the fire service had very little reserves compared to its counterparts across the country and agreed to write to the Government to highlight concerns over the lack of funding for delivering the service across England’s largest county.

Mrs Metcalfe said she had made “strong representations” to the Home Office about the impact of pay if it went above three per cent and that the Government’s funding formula for the service needed reviewing.

She added: “It’s really innovative practise to be able to buy pre-owned… it’s going to save the service in the long-term millions of pounds. It’s really thinking outside the box as unfortunately we’re not in the position our neighbouring fire services are in.”

1 Comment

  1. The vehicles can be kept longer as parts are available. If you take haulier some of there lorries which fire appliance are, can do a million miles. You regularly see appliances on sales pages for sale with under 100,00 miles on the clock. They are not even run in.

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