The minutes from the previous meeting were approved.
Relevant updates on any outstanding actions were provided and the Action Log updated
Budget conditions letter update
Budget conditions letter update
As part of the budget setting process for 2020/21, the Commissioner and Chief Fire Officer agreed a Budget conditions letter outlining areas that were to be delivered in this financial year.
The Commissioner requires a paper which demonstrates the delivery against the agreed outcomes and measures
The budget assumes a certain amount will be set aside for Reserves together with the £100k to mitigate the impact of recruitment.
All 20 Firefighters that were part of the last recruitment drive have successfully completed their initial training and are now in stations.
The recruitment of the additional 12 personnel (dedicated bank) to support On-Call availability as part of the Bank Model is almost concluded.
Over 70 applicants were sifted through a number of robust technical and practical processes
The 12 personnel (four Crew Managers and eight Firefighters) are currently going through final HR checks before contracts are issued and transition training commences.
Once operational they will provide a resilient and sustainable resource to support On-Call availability.
An establishment Board is in place and PF asked for information to be shared after each meeting with the OPFCC. There is a budgeted assumption for organisational establishment in order to keep track on cost and it is essential this is regularly reconciled to the establishment board info and the policy.
The Chief Officer team for Fire has now relocated to Darby House as part of the planned co-location of key enabling services.
A new joint garage facility has been purchased with fit out and occupation expected by Q1 2022.
A new Head of Transport and Logistics started on 1st February 2021.
The delivery of enabling services integration over the next year, agreed by the Commissioner, Chief Constable and Chief Fire Officer remains broadly on track for delivery.
A joint Chief Digital Officer is in post as is a joint Head of HR.
The Finance department is now fully joint, with some remaining outstanding roles being recruited to.
Benefits are already being felt within the joint estates and facilities function.
An executive level operational delivery group now meets regularly to ensure Interoperability plans are monitored on a quarterly basis.
A key focus of the programme is to develop opportunities to work towards a single control room for Northamptonshire.
A joint Request For Information (RFI) has now been issued to explore the options for a joint control function. This will close on 5th May with findings being presented to the Commissioner and the Chief Officers week commencing 17th
A new protocol has launched for high-risk missing person searches. NFRS will support the police to help physically locate vulnerable high-risk mispers.
The duty FIM in the Force Control Room contacts the duty NILO for assessment of the resources required.
The Commissioner would like to track how the new protocol works in practice and asked how many times NFRS have supported in the past for comparison.
Action – SH to find out how many times NFRS have assisted with high-risk missing persons in the past to provide baseline to measure the success of the new protocol.
There was a discussion about ICT infrastructure. The new joint Chief Digital Officer has set up a Fire Digital Board to oversee and assign priority to the various workstreams and better governance is in place.
The Chief Fire Officer comments that this has been a real enabler and being in the same building will be even better.
There was a discussion about average response times which have improved since the Governance change to the OPFCC.
Prior to the Governance change these were 11 minutes and 36 seconds.
Response times had reduced to below a 10-minute average however there was a peak in average response times in December due to flooding incidents at Billing Aquadrome and there has been a rise in January and February. This is being further examined by the Chief Officer Team
Action – SH to review SOR times to obtain an accurate picture with a plan to address any performance issues identified.
There was a discussion about the review of costs and efficiencies that has been undertaken by finance colleagues to prepare an accurate period 9 position for the current financial year.
HK commented that as part of the budget process there was some good work by Fire working with Finance to identify one year savings if they had been needed to balance the budget.
Whilst funding was received by the Home Office for 2021/22, Fire need to have a savings plan to ensure a balanced MTFP over a 5-year period. This is not only a requirement for an organisation to ensure effective planning and delivery but also would be expected by HMICFRS and the external auditors in their assessment.
Whilst some of the one year savings can be included they need to be refreshed and a plan provided by Fire as set out in the budget and precept report to the Panel and the Chief Fire Officer’s budget letter.
HK will work with the Chief Fire Officer to assist him in identifying savings within his budget into a plan to balance the MTFP by June 2021, which when agreed will be shared with the Home Office in line with discussions with the as it is anticipated that due to the scale of the shortfalls on the MTFP, some of the proposals could be significant.
The Commissioner will continue to lobby the Home Office for more money in the base budget.
The Commissioner recognised the work that had been undertaken to meet most of the conditions in the budget letter. He specifically recognised the early progress in respect of Interoperability between Police and Fire and the enabling services work in ICT. However, the Commissioner was clear in his expectation that there is still more work to do, particularly in regard to ICT and ensuring a savings plan is identified by Fire to balance the medium term plan.
The Commissioner was assured in relation to increased pump availability and response times but made the point that response times need continuous management oversight to ensure the improvements are maintained.
The Commissioner requires a quarterly update on the action plans and recommendations from the Grenfell Inquiry along with any resource or investment requirements arising from this.
Area Manager Phil Pells provided an update
Phase 1 of the Grenfell Action Plan has been reviewed. Last yeasr internal audit on NFRS action plan concluded that adequacy of system and compliance was good and reported positively on the progress being made.
Actions to enhance control or operational efficiency have all been completed.
The tender process for a dedicated aerial appliance to meet high-rise risks has been completed. This is currently in the cool off period prior to contractual completion.
Delivery is expected later this year or very early 2022.
In Q4, milestone completion dates were set for 11 (including carry forward of 2 actions from Q3). 7 were completed.
There was a discussion about the implementation of Fire Survivor Guidance (FSG) and National Operational Guidance (NOG).
Local draft guidance and procedures have been completed and will undergo a stress test on 23 April 2021
The Grenfell Tower Infrastructure Grant received form the Home Office has been committed.
There is likely to be a shortfall in estimated costs for the Multi-Agency Incident Transfer (MAIT). Contractual negotiations continue at a national level. Estimates from the HO are between £20k – £40k however initial costs from Capita range from £40k – £80k per control/system.
PP asked HK if this could be included in communications with the HO on base funding discussions. HK advised she will reflect this in communications with the HO.
Action – HK to raise the impact of the increased MAIT costs on the grant allocations with the HO.
There was a discussion about overall risks and issues, particularly risks graded Amber.
The Chief Fire Officer advised that some risks cannot be fully mitigated at a Service level. For example, National Guidance for high-rise fires needs to be agreed and issued by the NOJ and the new Arial appliance whilst ordered, hasn’t yet been delivered.
It was suggested that this should be articulated in the action plan to reflect all the work that is being done to mitigate the risk as far as possible.
The Chief Fire Officer agreed to consider the most transparent way to do this.
With regard to high-rise buildings in Northamptonshire, none have any Grenfell style gladding and Scott Richards in the Protection Team is carrying out building inspections ahead of time.
Action – DD to add narrative to the Amber Risks
The Commissioner remains assured that NFRS have in place an effective response plan for actions arising from the Grenfell phase 1 inquiry. He sought the commitment of the Chief Fire Officer to ensure that progress continued on the same trajectory and the completion of remaining actions.
Capital Investment Plan
During the NFRS budget setting process for 2021/2022, it was agreed that the NFRS Capital Investment Plan would be reviewed in order to ensure it was both deliverable and affordable.
The Commissioner requires a presentation of the revised capital investment plan for agreement.
Assistant Chief Officer Paul Bullen provided an overview of the work that had been undertaken across both Police and Fire so that there was a consistent approach and methodology to both Services.
PB has reviewed the Capital Programme with all Heads of Departments.
Nick Alexander has been fully involved in the process and has costed the required operational programme in its entirety, providing professional scrutiny and challenge where appropriate.
Helen King has attended some of the meetings held and has been encouraged by the engagement of all managers in them.
PB confirmed he is still unable to report a balanced position and work continues to see what can be done to bridge the gap; extend the life of some appliances for example.
A new Corporate Delivery Board has been set up to provide better governance and ensure that procurements run more smoothly with a clearly identified ‘need’ rather than ‘want’.
By far the largest expenditure within the Estates sections is the joint garage facility however the cost is smoothed over a 40-year life and some Home Office grant is applied to reduce the cost further.
For ICT, a number of aspects of the ICT programme have been updated but there are still some lines without a monetary value against them. Estimate need to be included along with timescales for delivery so that informed decisions can be made.
There was a discussion about ESN. The Home Office is leading a cross-government programme to deliver the new Emergency Services Network (ESN) critical communications system. This will replace the current Airwave service used by the emergency services in Great Britain (England, Wales and Scotland) and transform how they operate.
It is hoped that a planned HO announcement in the summer will provide greater clarity around costs and timescales.
The costs on the Control Room have been increased as it was felt that this had been understated previously. Will have a better idea what the right numbers are in the next few weeks.
There was a discussion about Section 106 money. The Commissioner sought reassurance that everything possible was being done to ensure we were collecting as much of this revenue as possible, for example on new builds.
PB confirmed an individual has been appointed to the joint role for both Police and Fire – They will join early summer and lead on this.
Leanne Hanson will lead on commercialisation opportunities for the Chelveston site and the new joint garage.
HK advised that the she is of the view that with NCC currently contracted to Fire to do so, funding from Section 106 is being maximised and the work of the service with Nick is applying all funding wherever possible and including it within the capital programme. Furthermore, whenever there is an opportunity to apply HO grants and lobby for additional, they are doing so.
HK advised that in her professional view, the level of borrowing required to support the programme was still too high and there is a need to reduce it. Reducing borrowing is either done by reducing the cost of the programme, increasing revenue contributions out of the revenue budget or securing additional funding, or a combination of all. Whilst interest rates are low now this is unlikely in the longer term and costs are significant and will be in the future.
As an illustration HK highlighted that there is a significant shortfall in the MTFP from 2022/23 and future years and in some years almost half of the shortfall is a result of financing the current Capital Programme. If the programme was reduced, life of assets as mentioned by DD changed or reprofiled further, then the shortfalls would reduce. Similarly, if more is needed, the impact on the revenue budget will increase further.
The forecast MTFP sets out the estimated budgetary envelopes for each year based on current forecasts and it is a choice and balancing priorities that Fire need to make to manage within them.
HK is very appreciative of all the work that has been done to identify the optimum Fire Capital Programme but all felt there is still more to be done.
For ESN; HK confirmed that have just secured £450k (confirmed today) but would take an awful lot of extra money to pull back on some of the costs as there is so much on the list.
The Chief Fire Officer commented that it was good to have the original Capital Plan as it captures everything the Service would like, and you could see how much progress had been made.
The Chief Fire Officer agreed that there was still some work to do around fleet; for example there is a £200k cost associated for a new Water Carrier but if current one passes all its test and can last an extra year then the Service can push the budget for a replacement to another year. However, need to ensure that the Home Office understand that doing this doesn’t come without risk. It is more a case of which risks are more acceptable/palatable.
Despite the challenges it is important to reflect that since the Governance change the Service has received more investment in the last 18 months than in the past 10 years and it is making the right investment decisions 9sgaring buildings etc)
HK reminded the Commissioner and the Chief Fire Officer that if we want the Home Office to ask the Treasury for additional funding in the CSR we will need to be doing that in June.
The MTFP shortfalls are not going to be met by shaving stuff of the capital plan and this is a risk to both the organisation and the public, so realistic savings plans or different ways of doing things have to be identified.
The £1.5 million shortfall isn’t going to be found by shaving stuff of the capital plan and this is a risk to both the organisation and the public.
PF raised the example of a more efficient shift pattern which could be delivered at a lower cost and which had been discussed previously.
It was agreed that all ideas need to be reviewed fully to establish if the projected saving would be achievable and, where necessary or appropriate, a discussion had about any legislation that might need to change in the process.
This is the way we can demonstrate to the HO that we are doing everything possible.
Action – Chief Fire Officer to review the proposed Capital Programme and to represent a finalised, affordable and deliverable capital plan is presented in June.
The Commissioner recognised the amount of work that had been undertaken to get the presented capital programme to its current position, but the discussion was centred around the fact this it remains unaffordable.
The Commissioner made the point that it is incumbent on him to ensure there is a balanced budget each year and balanced Medium-Term Financial Plans are in place. The Chief Fire Officer will be supported by the S151 officer in developing his Medium Term Savings Plan which will also set out the associated risks of it.
The Commissioner was assured that NFRS were doing all that was possible at this time to attract income into the service and reducing the costs of borrowing. Additional work was still required to make the capital plan affordable and set a June deadline for this to be completed.
AGE DISCRIMINATION 1992 FPS AND 2006 NFPS – Immediate Detriment Cases
The Chief Fire Officer advised that NFRS have several people who are affected either because they have already retired or are due to retire.
DD and SH lack the technical expertise to help those affected make the appropriate retirement decisions and would welcome some additional support.
HK advised that the Home Office have allocated some money to each Fire Authority (Over £30K for Northants) in recognition of the complexity of the issue.
In Policing, the MET are working nationally to resolve their Pension challenges.
ACTION – DD will discuss with other Chief Fire Officers what process they adopt and will link in with HK to get a better understanding of the issue and put forward any proposals.