The firefighters’ union says households may be hit with a fire brigade ‘‘tax’’ at the same time as the government is considering temporary closures of more stations as part of budget savings measures.
Nearly 800 letters from members of the public opposed to charging ratepayers more for emergency services were delivered to state Parliament yesterday.
Fire Brigade Employees Union secretary Jim Casey said the government was moving to shift costs from insurance companies to ‘‘ordinary punters’’.
The government is reviewing the funding of emergency services, the bulk of which, or 73.7per cent, comes from a tax on insurance companies. Councils contribute 11.7per cent of costs and the state government 14.6per cent.
Greens MP David Shoebridge said replacing the insurance levy with a property tax was inequitable.
‘‘This is a strong message to this government that ordinary householders should not be picking up the bill to give insurance companies and businesses a tax break,’’ Mr Shoebridge said.
Fire and Rescue NSW is also under pressure to cut $64million over four years, as part of budget savings measures departments and agencies have to make.
One option proposed is for some stations to be taken ‘‘offline’’ – temporarily closed – if understaffed.
The Newcastle Herald reported yesterday Lower Hunter fire stations, particularly those around Cessnock, were already being routinely taken ‘‘offline’’ because of a shortage of on-call firefighters.
But the union insisted the government was planning to press ahead with closures of Sydney stations, and possibly three others in the Hunter.