A GOVERNMENT minister has dealt a blow to The Press’s Fight The Fire Cuts campaign for fairer funding for North Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Service.

Although the final grant for 2009/10 has not yet been announced, Fire Service Minister Sadiq Khan has rejected claims by York MP Hugh Bayley that the provisional settlement announced last year was based on a miscalculation.

But Mr Bayley today vowed to battle on, saying he had won the backing of the influential chairwoman of the Communities And Local Government Select Committee, Dr Phyllis Starkey.

He revealed Dr Starkey had asked finance experts in the House of Commons Scrutiny Unit to check the Government’s figures.

The Government said last year it intended raising its grant to North Yorkshire and nine other fire authorities across England by only 0.5 per cent in the coming financial year, and by the same amount in 2010/11.

The Press’s campaign, backed by a petition signed by many hundreds of readers, called for a fairer grant to ensure firefighters can continue to respond to fires and other emergencies, while also delivering a comprehensive fire prevention service.

Mr Bayley revealed recently that he was making a separate plea, involving a “transitional grant” which had been given to North Yorkshire and other fire authorities three years ago to help them meet the costs of a higher-than-expected firefighters’ pay settlement.

Mr Bayley said North Yorkshire had been given £362,000, but had been forced to pay this money back in two instalments over the subsequent two years, with the money simply being deducted by the Government from its annual grant. The reduced grant had then been used as the base figure from which to calculate the 0.5 per cent rise.

Mr Bayley said there was a risk the amount would end up being paid back again and again, making it the “most expensive loan ever”.

Mr Khan has now replied, saying the transitional issues had been considered by ministers before the funding settlement was announced, and the grant increase should be based on last year’s settlement, minus the transitional grant. But Mr Bayley insisted today: “The civil servants’ figures are wrong. They have made a mistake which needs to be put right.

“I have written to the minister to tell him that this issue will not go away. I have spoken to the MPs representing the other authorities and we are all in agreement. The civil servants’ calculations are now being formally investigated by Parliament.”