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Financial Debacle At The Top Of The Fire Service

Financial Debacle At The Top Of The Fire Service

MEDIA RELEASE 21 OCTOBER 1999

FINANCIAL DEBACLE AT THE TOP OF THE FIRE SERVICE

"The announcement today that the Fire Service Levy is to be put back to a rate of 6.2 cents per $100 of insured value is a failure of both the government and the Fire Service Commission" said Derek Best, Secretary of the Firefighters Union.

"Firstly, almost everyone who has looked at the present funding mechanism of the Fire Service has seen that it is unfair and unsatisfactory, except it seems to the government."

"The Internal Affairs Select Committee that inquired into the Fire Service last year specifically recommended:

- That the provisions in the Act relating to the calculation of the Fire Service Levy be reviewed as a matter of urgent priority; and

a.. That the government review the way in which the Fire Service is funded. "

"It is because of the failure of the government to take any action on those unanimous recommendations that the person who conscientiously and responsibly insures their property is now to be faced with paying more for the Fire Service. Those who do not insure, or under-insure, or evade or avoid payment of the levy continue to avoid paying their fair share. As well, a significant amount of Fire Service work is not specifically funded - for example motor vehicle accidents. Finally, last year this government stopped paying its previous contribution of 8% of the Fire Service budget. The government, as a property owner in large part now gets fire cover for free."

"This increase in Fire Service levy is just another example of an increase in an indirect tax. There would not be this tax increase if the government had moved to review and put in place a fair mechanism of funding the Fire Service", Derek Best said.

"Secondly, the need for additional funding is further evidence of the lunacy of so-called restructuring of the Fire Service commenced by Roger Estall, endorsed by this government and continued by the present Commission. At Roger Estall's last Commission meeting, the Commission resolved to establish a short term $60 million loan facility. By August this year $30 million had been drawn down and $7.75 million had been borrowed from other sources."

"The 'savings' the Commission intended to make were nothing more than sacking all firefighters and reducing overall numbers of firefighters by more than 400. This plan has been found to be unlawful and that decision of the Employment Court was endorsed by the Court of Appeal just last week."

"The only sign of any belt tightening in the Fire Service is at the front line where firefighters still experience a 9 year wage freeze. Corporate office management numbers continue to increase regularly and there is no wage freeze for the bosses", Derek Best said.

"Millions of dollars have been wasted by the previous and the present Commission. Massive legal bills, public relations costs and golden handshakes have all contributed to the present financial crisis in the Fire Service. The level of incompetence displayed by the Minister of Internal Affairs, the government, and the previous and present Commission is breathtaking", Derek Best concluded.


ENDS

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