Agenda and draft minutes

Venue: via Webex

Contact: Abigail Blanshard 

Items
No. Item

27.

Declarations of Interest

In relation to matters on the agenda, seek declarations of interest from Members, in accordance with the provisions of the Fire Authority’s Code of Conduct for Members.

Minutes:

There were none

28.

Apologies for Absence

Minutes:

There were none

29.

Notification of items which the Chairman considers urgent and proposes to take at the end of the agenda/Chairman's business items

Any Members wishing to raise urgent items are asked, wherever possible to notify the Chairman before the start of the meeting.  In so doing they must state the special circumstances which they consider justify the matter being considered urgently

Minutes:

The Chairman informed the Fire Authority that the process to appoint a new Assistant Chief Fire Officer would commence in the next few weeks with the intention to hold interviews in April.

 

The Chairman then reminded Members that the Local Government Association’s (LGA) Fire Conference would be taking place at the beginning of March.  Group Leaders were advised to attend if possible along with the Fire Authority’s LGA representatives.

30.

To consider any public questions

Minutes:

A public question had been received from Mark Todd, on behalf of Unison and shared with all Authority Members in advance of the meeting.

 

“Will the Fire Authority commit to protecting our communities by ensuring we have a stable and sustainable income for the future and approving a rise in Council Tax?”

 

This question was considered as part of the preparation for this meeting and was included in the appendices to item 96.  A written response would be sent after a decision had been taken by this meeting.

31.

To receive any petitions

Minutes:

There were none

32.

Non-confidential Minutes of the Previous Meeting pdf icon PDF 514 KB

To approve the Non-confidential Minutes of the last meeting held on 3 September 2020.

Minutes:

RESOLVED – That the minutes of the meeting held on 3 September 2020 be approved and signed by the Chairman. (Copy in Minute Book)

33.

Callover

The Chairman will call the item numbers of the remaining items on the open agenda.  Each item which is called by any Member shall be reserved for debate.  The Chairman will then ask the Fire Authority to adopt without debate the recommendations and resolutions contained in the relevant reports for these items which have not been called.

Minutes:

Members reserved the following items for debate:

 

96        Fire Authority Service Planning processes for 2021/22 and beyond – Revenue             Budget 2021/22 and Capital Asset Strategy 2021/22 to 2025/26

 

98        Pay Policy Statement 2021-22

 

99        Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Project – Additional Funding             Requirement

 

100      People Strategy 2021-2025

 

RESOLVED – That all other reports be approved according to the recommendations set out.

34.

Fire Authority Service Planning processes for 2021/22 and beyond - Revenue Budget 2021/22 and Capital Asset Strategy 2021/22 to 2025/26 pdf icon PDF 1 MB

Report of the Chief Fire Officer and Assistant Director Resources/Treasurer

Minutes:

The Fire Authority considered the report of the Chief Fire Officer (CFO) and Assistant Director Resources / Treasurer (ADR/T) which presented Members with the Fire Authority’s Revenue Budget 2021/22, Capital Strategy 2021/22 – 2025/26 and Medium Term Finance Plan for 2021/22 – 2025/26 for approval. 

 

The ADR/T presented the report to Members, and informed them of an error in the figures presented at Appendix F(i), an updated version of this appendix would be provided.  The Authority’s budget proposals for 2021/22 and its five year Medium Term Finance Plan (MTFP) had been considered by the Policy & Resources (P&R) Panel on 21 January 2021.  Since that meeting the report had been updated to reflect the latest council tax and business rates information, collection fund positions and the best understanding of how the schemes to compensate authorities for the impact of Covid-19 on Collection Funds and council taxbase would operate.  The Local Government Finance Settlement (LGFS) had been finalised by Parliament on 10 February 2021 and had been better than forecast.

 

The key decision for the Authority was to set the level of council tax for 2021/22.  The P&R Panel recommended two options for consideration, either no increase (0%) or an increase of 1.99% (the referendum threshold for fire authorities was 2%).  A decision to freeze council tax, even for a single year would have a permanent impact on the Authority’s future income.  The loss of income resulting from a freeze in council tax for 2021/22 was estimated at £0.551m (2021/22) rising to £0.618m (2025/26).  Across the 5 year MTFP the total loss of income would be £2.9m.  This would increase the level of future savings required under the best case scenario to £0.9m (2025/26 base) and £5.3m (5 year total) and under the worse case scenario to £3.1m and £10.9m respectively (as detailed in the updated Appendix F(i)).

 

This decision was to be made when there remained significant uncertainties for funding after 2021/22 which the current Covid-19 pandemic had only exacerbated.  New legislation resulting from the Grenfell enquiry was likely to impose fresh demands on the Authority’s prevention services and there was no clarity on the extent to which Government would fund additional costs.

 

The Fire Authority, in line with the joint National Fire Chief Council (NFCC) / LGA Comprehensive Spending Review 2020 submission, had lobbied for a fair and sustainable medium term settlement for the fire service including additional local flexibility to increase council tax by 2% or £5 whichever was the greater, a position that would be difficult to maintain if the Authority did not take the increase in council tax available to it in 2021/22.

 

The Authority had acted prudently in establishing reserves and balances to meet its assessed risks and to provide one off funding for specific priorities.  The level of reserves held would significantly reduce over the life of the MTFP, from £18m to below £3m by 2022/23, bringing forward the need to borrow and reducing the level of financial flexibility  ...  view the full minutes text for item 34.

35.

Treasury Management Strategy 2021-22 pdf icon PDF 903 KB

Report of the Assistant Director Resources/Treasurer

Minutes:

The Fire Authority considered the report of the Assistant Director Resources/Treasurer (ADR/T) which set out recommendations regarding borrowing limits, prudential indicators and limits, the investment strategy and policy as required by Section 3 (1) of the Local Government Act 2003 and the Prudential Code for Capital Finance 2017. 

 

The emphasis continued to be on security and liquidity.  The strategy and limits were consistent with the proposed capital programme and revenue budget previously dealt with at this meeting.  The Authority was recommended to approve borrowing limits to give flexibility for any future consideration in undertaking new external long-term / replacement borrowing should the need arise.

 

RESOLVED – That the Fire Authority agreed to:

 

(i)               approve the treasury management strategy and policy statement for 2021/22 (and adopt for the remainder of 2020/21);

(ii)              determine that for 2021/22 the Authorised Limit for borrowing shall be £15.155m

(iii)            adopt the prudential indicators as set out in the attached Appendix 2; and

(iv)            approve the Minimum Revenue Provision (MRP) Statement for 2021/22 as set out in the attached Appendix 3.

36.

Pay Policy Statement 2021-22 pdf icon PDF 153 KB

Report of the Assistant Director People Services

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Fire Authority received the Report of the Assistant Director People Services (ADPS) seeking approval of the Fire Authority’s Pay Policy Statement for the period 1 April 2021 to 31 March 2022.  The Localism Act 2011 imposed a duty on relevant local authorities to prepare pay policy statements for each financial year, beginning in 2012/12, the Fire Authority was required to approve the statement by the statutory deadline of 31 March 2021.

 

Members were satisfied with the statement, but sought clarification on the re-engagement of employees.  The ADPS explained that re-engagement was a process, not undertaken at ESFRS, where an employee retires and is then re-employed.  At ESFRS all vacancies were put out to open application to which anyone could apply for the role making the process transparent and fair for all.

 

RESOLVED – That the Fire Authority approved the Pay Policy Statement as set out in Appendix 1 to the Report.

37.

CRM Project - Additional Funding Requirement pdf icon PDF 606 KB

Report of the Assistant Chief Fire Officer

Minutes:

The Fire Authority considered the Report of the Assistant Chief Fire Officer (ACFO) providing an update on the delivery of the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) project, which aimed to deliver business critical enhancements to prevention, protection and response services, and to seek approval of an additional investment of £1.094m bringing the total project budget to £1.969m to fund its full delivery. 

 

The report outlined the additional funding requirements for the CRM project to enable delivery of business benefits impacting our legal requirement to enforce the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order and meet legal expectations under the Fire and Rescue Services Act in respect to prevention of fires and ensuring risk information is available to crews, a critical firefighter safety provision.  The enhancements will also ensure that the protection, prevention and SSRI related elements of the IRMP can be fully realised.  The ACFO added that the Service had not invested specifically in a Prevention Risk Management tool to date, but how important it was that the risk information collected from prevention, protection and response activities, using the upgraded CRM system was easily accessed by the appropriate member of staff at the appropriate time and that without the CRM enhancement, this would not be an efficient and reliable process.

 

The ACFO explained that the HMICFRS inspections review had further clarified the expectations of the National Framework for prevention, protection and response and resilience.  The original business case for CRM was written three years ago in 2018. Additional functionality, unforeseen at the time of the original business case, was required in order to respond effectively to the Grenfell enquiry outcomes, HMICFRS observations and the recommendations for improvement specifically related to firefighter risk information (Site Specific Risk Information (SSRI) related), Safe and Well/Home Safety Visits and Business Safety inspections.  The identified enhancements across the three areas, Minimum Viable Products (MVP’s), now required an enhanced investment if the benefits were to be fully realised.  This would ensure the Service was able to respond appropriately to areas identified as requiring improvement, continue to meet its current and foreseeable statutory obligations, supply required intelligence to central government, implement key elements of the current IRMP and share risk critical information across teams and partners to support the effective safeguarding of staff and the public.

 

In response to a comment on the length of time proposed for pay back the Chief Fire Officer (CFO) was confident that all Members of the Fire Authority would understand that investment in IT always had an element of sunk cost, especially when ensuring that there was interaction between a number of different systems.  Not all of these investments would have a cashable return. 

 

The Lead Member for IT added that integration between systems had been lacking in the past, but that he was confident that this project was futureproofed in so far as was possible, and he had no hesitation in recommending it to Members for approval.

 

Members thanked the ACFO for a very comprehensive report on this hugely important piece of work.  ...  view the full minutes text for item 37.

38.

People Strategy 2021-2025 pdf icon PDF 129 KB

Report of the Deputy Chief Fire Officer

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Fire Authority considered the Report of the Deputy Chief Fire Officer (DCFO) seeking approval for the ESFRS People Strategy 2021-2025. 

 

The draft People Strategy (Appendix A to this report) had been developed both collaboratively and in support of and aligned to the Integrated Risk Management Plan (IRMP) and the Corporate Plan.  The draft strategy had been reviewed by the Senior Leadership Team, other senior officers and Trade Unions.  It took into account the findings of the 2019 HMICFRS Inspection and the State of the Fire and Rescue Service Report of January 2020. 

 

Members thanked the Assistant Director People Services (ADPS) for the report and felt that the launch of the new strategy would be a good opportunity to equip managers to support staff.  There were queries over the form that staff training would take and also assurance was sought regarding purposeful engagement with staff forums, trade unions, outside groups.

 

The ADPS confirmed that the People Strategy had been created to fully align with the IRMP and the NFCC’s People and Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Strategies.  Equality, Diversity & Inclusion (EDI) was woven throughout the Service and external EDI was front and centre to the Safer Communities Strategy.  The People Strategy sets out where the Service intends to be in 5 years’ time, with the aim to better understand and represent our communities.

 

With regards to Training delivery, the EDI training was being revised and sessions on behaviours were being rolled out to all staff.  The training was currently virtual, but this was a blended approach and not solely e-learning.  There was a benefit to virtual provision in our specific circumstances, as the Service was shift based it enabled staff greater flexibility to complete courses.

 

Members queried what was going to be done to try and ensure that the workforce better represented the diversity of the community it served.  The ADPS was mindful that there had been no significant Firefighter recruitment for 10 years and that there was a high retirement profile coming up.  Recruitment would be opening in June 2021.  The CFO added that ESFRS had already been determinedly recruiting diversity into volunteers and cadets and that there was heavy engagement regarding this matter both locally and nationally. 

 

Cllr Lambert proposed and Cllr Evans seconded an amendment to recommendation iii to include that the Fire Authority would also receive regular updates, in addition to those sent to the SLT. 

 

Members raised some textual amendments that they felt necessary.  Cllr Galley proposed and Cllr Barnes seconded an additional recommendation to allow the CFO to make these changes.

 

Both amendments were agreed by the Fire Authority and reflected in the resolution below.

 

RESOLVED – That the Fire Authority agreed to:

 

i)                 approve the People Strategy 2021-2025 and the subsequent plan of work;

 

ii)                note the funding required in order to deliver the deliverables outlined within the strategy;

 

iii)              note that regular reports on the delivery of the People Strategy will be presented to the Senior Leadership Team and the Fire Authority; and  ...  view the full minutes text for item 38.