The minutes from the previous meeting were approved.
Relevant updates on any outstanding actions were provided and the Action Log updated
Budget Outturn position
Budget Outturn position
The Commissioner requires a report that outlines a full financial outturn position for the financial year 2019/20 for Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service
Vaughn Ashcroft provided an overview of the provisional revenue outturn and capital budget.
The provisional outturn is subject to the final position in respect of 2019/20 Business Rates and is subject to external audit. The final Business Rates information has been impacted due to the impact of COVID-19 on the Borough and District Council revenues Department.
It is expected there will be an impact on funding in 2019/20 2020/21, and future years, but the uncertainty is how much and which years. If this comes to fruition after the year end audit has been completed, the 2019/20 position will be balanced by the use of reserves.
NCFRA accounts for 2018/19 have now been signed off.
Whilst the auditors understood the fragile state of NCFRA reserves at the time of the governance transfer to the OPFCC, they recognised the significant progress made in establishing the minimum level of reserves and the financial strategies and policies in place to support this and as such the accounts were not qualified. This was a much better position than was envisaged at the time of the Governance transfer.
Final outturn positions will be confirmed on conclusion of the external audits. As at the year end, the provisional outturn reflect a £244k underspend. This is a result of a number of unexpected One-off variance but has given NCFRA the opportunity to build general reserves to a reasonable level ahead of the dates set out in the three year financial stability plan.
A technical review of all material invoices over the financial year has been undertaken to ensure that costs are accounted for appropriately.
Additionally, in line with accounting requirements, a number of provisions have been established. These include a Bad debt provision and a £56k provision to meet the cost of the asbestos work which will take place in 2020/21 across the estate.
The 2019/20 draft accounts were published within the planned timescales and public inspection is not open on them for six weeks. In addition, the external audit for 2019/20 has commenced on 17 August 2020, initially for a six week period and sign off is being worked towards for the end of November 2020.
The Commissioner commended the efforts of all involved including the work being done to ensure internal controls and regular audits which are seeking to address the previously experienced levels of volatility.
The Medium Term Plan for Fire shows a very challenging financial position and work on reviewing the MTP will be underway shortly.
Minimising the volatility experienced during the first full year after the governance transfer and ensuring internal controls are working and embedded are key to this.
Concerns remain around IT, Vision and the shared Command and Control Systems with Warwickshire. Paul Bullen now leading on this piece of work.
Still need clarity on compliance to know associated costs.
There was a discussion about the Emergency Service Network (ESN) critical communications system and the opportunity to look at what ESN funding can and cannot be used for.
Action RP to pick ESN work with Nick Alexander and Paul Bullen
In summary, good progress has been made in building financial stability over the first 15 months of the governance transfer. This gives NCFRA a platform to develop the service further whilst continuing to build financial stability.
OVERALL ACCOUNTABILITY STATEMENT
The Commissioner was assured in relation to the provisional outturn position for NFRS for the financial year 2019/2020.
He sought ongoing assurance about reducing the volatility of budget during this current financial year 2020/2021 and stated that he would continue to monitor this formally at accountability boards on a quarterly basis.
The Commissioner was assured good progress had been made in terms of delivering effective financial controls and stability in NFRS, in the 15 months since governance transferred to PFCC from NCC and that this was recognised by the external auditors accounts options and value for money assessments for 2018/19.
Road Traffic Collision (RTC) response times
Road Traffic Collision (RTC) response times.
The Commissioner requested a report on the progress being made to achieve an average response time (for all incidents) of 10 minutes as detailed within the Integrated Risk Management Plan (IPMP) 2019/22.and the part that RTC response times played in this.
The Commissioner would like to discuss how the Service plans to continue to improve RTC attendance times and adapt response to meet changing demand.
The fire and rescue framework for England 2018 states Fire and rescue authorities must make provision to respond to incidents such as fires, road traffic collisions and other emergencies within their area and in other areas in line with their mutual aid agreements.
Shaun Hallam provided and overview of current response times along with an overlay of where RTCs occur and where Fire stations are in relation to them to give context
Northamptonshire has a network of major roads running through the county. There are a total of 4,521km of roads. This includes 224km of major roads including the A5, A14, A43, A45 and the M1
Northamptonshire is a significantly rural county with a wide network of narrow country roads.
As a growing county, the increase in volume of traffic on both major and minor roads presents as an increased risk to Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service (NFRS).More vehicles increase the likelihood of a Road Traffic Collision (RTC).
As covered at previous accountability boards, fire appliance availability has been a key area of improvement for the Service with year to date average response times for all incidents is currently 09:49 minutes (10:23 2019).
Generally, RTC response times are around 13 minutes this is due to the rural nature of many incidents. Crews typically have to travel further if nearest station unavailable resulting in a longer travel time.
Typically, fires are more likely to occur in urban areas and historically fire stations are built where there is the highest risk of a fire.
An infographic which plotted all RTC’s attended by the fire service was reviewed
There was a discussion about what can be done to improve response times and what should be counted.
SH confirmed all RTC’s are included within the average response time including those which occur over the border and therefore technically out of county
Some sympathy with over for border responses (for mutual aid) which impact negatively on response times.
There was a discussion about the IRMP which is focussed on delivering services to local people.
It was agreed that over the border should be annotated but not included in the overall response times.(Relatively small numbers which will be monitored and reviewed over next 6 months)
There was a discussion about the proposed Improvement actions set out in Shaun’s supporting presentation.
It was agreed that improvements in technology, control rooms and ESN will also play a part in response times.
There was a discussion about initial intervention vehicles and whether these could be used for RTC’s.
DD advised they are typically used for proactive prevention and for providing availability to On Call firefighters. If Brackley for example became a Whole Time station then IIV vehicles could be released and used for RTC’s using a Tri-service approach.
There was a discussion about sponsored PCSO’s. Six of the nine sponsored PCSO’s are in South Northants or Daventry districts. It is in these more rural areas when sponsored PCSO’s largely feature.
Action PF and SM to pick up discussion about use of PCSO.
Action DD to have operational discussion with Nick Adderley concerning use of PCSO in these circumstances.
Overall really good work and a firm foundation and ambition for 2025
The Commissioner and Chief Fire Officer thanked Helen King and the finance team for all their hard work
OVERALL ASSURANCE STATEMENT
The Commissioner expressed his pleasure and thanks for the work undertaken to reduce response times overall and to increase appliance availability. The Commissioner was reassured that good progress has been made in reducing response times to all types of incidents, as well as overall since the governance transfer in January 2019.
Recognising that RTC response times are those that are most difficult to achieve in 10 minutes the Commissioner was reassured that the Chief Fire Officer has a plan to seek to reduce these further and will receive a formal update in relation to this at a future accountability board, to be fixed.