Agenda and minutes

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No. Item


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.


It was noted that, in relation to matters on the agenda, no participating Member had any interest to declare under the Fire Authority’s Code of Conduct for Members.


Apologies for Absence/Substitutions


Apologies had been received from Councillor Powell.  Councillor West was attending as her substitute.


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.


There were none.


Minutes of the last Policy & Resources meeting held on 12 November 2020 pdf icon PDF 287 KB


RESOLVED: That the minutes of the meeting of the Policy & Resources Panel held on 12 November 2020 be approved as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.



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 Panel to adopt without debate the recommendations and resolutions contained in the relevant reports for those items which have not been called.


Members reserved the following items for debate:


20.       Revenue and Capital Budget 2020/21 and Capital Programme 2020/21 to 2024/25 Monitoring at Month 8


21.       Fire Authority Service Planning Processes for 2021/22 and Beyond - Revenue Budget 2021/22 and Capital Asset Strategy 2021/22 to 2025/26


Revenue and Capital Budget 2020/21 and Capital Programme 2020/21 to 2024/25 Monitoring at Month 8 pdf icon PDF 529 KB

Report of the Assistant Director Resources/Treasurer


The Panel received a report from the Assistant Director Resources/Treasurer (ADR/T) on the findings of the month 8 monitoring undertaken on the Revenue and Capital Budget 2020/21 and Capital Programme 2020/21 to 2024/25.


The ADR/T introduced the report, highlighting that a net Revenue underspend of £496,000 had been identified.  This was a favourable variation of £601,000 from the position presented in the last report to the Panel and was largely a result of underspend across the budget including the impact of Covid-19 in areas such as fuel, travel and subsistence, Member expenses and training.  In-year pressures had been managed through the use of contingency and underspend.  Ongoing pressures had been identified and fed into the 2021/22 budget setting process.  With regard to the Capital Programme, there had been a significant level of slippage primarily due to Covid-19 but also as projects had been paused pending the outcome of the Integrated Risk Management Plan (IRMP) and challenges which had arisen in partner dependent projects.  Full details of both the Revenue and Capital budget monitoring were set out in the report.


The ADR/T explained that additional spend incurred as a result of the pandemic was currently forecast to be covered by government grants totalling £770k, savings made in areas such as travel and subsistence and a bid to the government income loss scheme.  However, the Service was now beginning to see the impact of the second peak and there was a risk that spend against Covid-19 would exceed the grants and savings.  The Authority continued to monitor the situation and provide government returns on the spend impacts. 


The Panel asked about carbon reduction and sustainability policy development and whether the budget underspend could be utilised to make progress in this area, especially given the opportunity that continued remote working may present in terms of both financial and environmental benefits.  The Chief Fire Officer (CFO) commented that sustainability was due to be discussed at next Members’ seminar and that provision had been made in the Capital Programme for renewables.  Work was also being undertaken to develop a responsible procurement policy and in fleet and engineering opportunities in terms of electric vehicles and emission reduction were being explored.  Additional resources had been secured via the University of Brighton to assist in establishing the Service’s carbon footprint and the key opportunities to impact on this. 


Members queried whether the current grant allocations were sufficient.  The ADR/T responded that the government had extended the pensions grant and committed to baselining it into the funding settlement as part of the next Comprehensive Spending Review which was welcomed, however, this did not cover all potential pension risks.  Sector-wide one-off grant funding to cover the initial impact of the Building Safety Review had been received but further budgetary pressures were expected as a result of forthcoming building safety legislation requirements for which there had been no further grant or baseline funding.  Representations were being made to Government on this these matters.


The Panel asked for a further explanation of  ...  view the full minutes text for item 20.


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 Assistant Director Resources/Treasurer


The Panel received a report from the ADR/T which presented the Fire Authority’s draft Revenue Budget for 2021/22, the Capital Strategy 2021/22 – 2025/26 and the Medium Term Finance Plan (MTFP) for 2021/22 – 2025/26 for initial consideration prior to its formal consideration by the Fire Authority at its meeting on 11 February 2021.  The draft budget proposals were subject to the finalisation of the local government finance settlement grant and Council Tax and Business Rate figures from the billing authorities. 


The ADR/T explained that the report set out a base case for a 1.99% increase in Council Tax rates as well as a 0% increase alternative.  He highlighted that a decision to freeze Council Tax for 1 year would impact permanently on the level of Council tax income that the Fire Authority could raise.  A 0% increase would result in a reduction in annual income of £0.551 million in 2021/22 rising to £0.617 million per year by 2025/26 and additional savings would need to be identified in order to balance the budget.  The total loss of income over the 5 year period of the MTFP would be just over £2.9 million.  It was recognised that the public had been impacted as result of the pandemic, however, questions on Council Tax increases were asked as part of the IRMP public consultation and 80% of respondents supported an increase in council tax to fund fire and rescue services.  Apart from Wealden District Council, other local authorities in the area were planning on taking the maximum basic Council Tax increase.  The ADR/T added that there was significant uncertainty surrounding the budget beyond 2021/2 and a number of pressures had been identified in what was a challenging Star Chamber budget setting process.  Further information on the risks were set out in paragraph 4.9 of the report.


The ADR/T highlighted some key budget proposals including investment in new People Strategy, the revenue impact of the IT Strategy, the extension of the interim control service until the end of September 2021, the need to progress regular wholetime firefighter recruitment and training and the top up of general balances to a 5% policy minimum.  It was noted that savings of £0.5m had been identified for 2021/22 which included IRMP savings.  The ADR/T added that the Authority faced a range of risks and significant financial uncertainty over the forthcoming years with a further Comprehensive Spending Review expected in 2021/22 and a review of the Business rate and funding formula.  The MFTP set out a best case scenario based on settlement funding assessment (a combination of income from core grant and business rates) remaining the same in cash terms and a worst case scenario where it reduced by 5% each year.  Under these scenarios the Authority would need to plan for further savings of up to £2.7m by 2025/26. Key assumptions made as part of the MTFP were set out in paragraph 4.2 of the report. 


There would be a continued focus on efficiency in the areas of  ...  view the full minutes text for item 21.