Bank of England’s ‘coronavirus’ interest rate cut will hit Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes Fire Service budget

A Bank of England decision to lop 0.5 per cent off interest rates to help the economy during the coronavirus outbreak, will hit next year’s fire service budget, a meeting heard.
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Finance gurus at Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes Fire Authority told a meeting on Wednesday that the new bank base rate of 0.25 per cent, down from 0.75 per cent, would hit their investments.

In common with other public bodies, the fire service invests money to generate an extra income for services.

In Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes Fire Authority’s case, they have invested a cool £14 million during the year in a range of seven banks and building societies.

The overview and audit committee at Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes Fire AuthorityThe overview and audit committee at Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes Fire Authority
The overview and audit committee at Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes Fire Authority

And a meeting of the authority’s overview and audit committee was told that in the first nine months of the financial year, they smashed their investment targets by scooping £150,000.

That’s enough to cover the cost of three firefighters, the meeting heard.

Marcus Hussey, the authority’s principal accountant, said that their advisers reckon interest rates will go back up once the coronavirus outbreak is over.

Mr Hussey said: “Our budget will be impacted by the interest rate reduction but we do not have an analysis yet.”

The overview and audit committee was also told of action that the fire service is taking to protect its people from covid 19 infection, and keep services going if they are taken ill.

It includes moving employees away from contact with the public if their immune systems are weakened, and more cleaning of door handles to prevent the spread of infection.

Calum Bell, the head of service delivery, said planning was about all risks that the authority faced, not just covid 19. But they are being updated at least once, and sometimes three times a day, on the rapidly changing situation.

Dave Norris, the head of service delivery, explained the emergency planning set up that joins the emergency services with councils and the health service.

“We are working to protect ourselves and to protect the public,” he said. “I am broadly satisfied that we are in the right place.”

Chief fire officer Jason Thelwell said the service has a “degradation plan” similar to when there is a fire service strike, that allows it to maintain fire cover the best it can.

And he added that the service has plenty of toilet paper.

“Nobody is going to steal our loo paper,” he said.