Apologies were accepted from CFO Darren Dovey, Helen King and Stuart McCartney
Minutes and Actions from previous meeting
SM welcomed everyone to the meeting
The minutes from the previous meeting were approved.
Relevant updates on any outstanding actions were provided and the Action Log updated
Fire and Rescue Service Code of Ethics
The NFCC, APCC and LGA have recently agreed a national Code of Ethics for Fire and Rescue Services.
The Commissioner requests a paper
That highlights and outlines the key elements to this code.
Informs him as to how the Chief Fire Officer intends to incorporate this into existing service values, internal performance and misconduct processes and future promotion and development processes.
ACFO Robin Porter presented a short paper which was accompanied by an Action plan.
The Fire Standards Board published its new Code of Ethics Fire Standard for England on the 18th May 2021.
The Code of Ethics Fire Standard specifically requires services to embed and show their commitment to the five ethical principles and professional behaviours contained in the Core Code.
Everyone in FRS is expected to follow the code
Not an issue in Northants but there have been some robust conversations nationally (First principal issues now resolved with FBU)
A Command foundation course has been completed and was well received.
In summary, the paper provided was concise, describing the Code of Ethics and articulates how they are being embedded.
This includes training, awareness raising, performance management, misconduct and discipline processes and promotion and selection.
It was noted that the Chief Fire Officer and his team have moved quickly on this and set up actions and processes to deliver the Code of Ethics.
It was agreed that a further paper will be requested at accountability board in about 9 months’ time where the Commissioner will expect to be provided with updates in relation to progress on the embedding of the code, including examples of where this has made a difference.
The Commissioner welcomed the report from the Chief Fire Officer and was assured that the Chief Fire Officer and his team had responded positively to this recently agreed national code of ethics.
He was grateful for the fact that they had already started work to properly embed this across the organisation, including into development, selection and recruitment, discipline and promotion processes.
He indicated that he would be looking to raise this at accountability board again in 9 months’ time to seek examples of where this had made a difference
Internal Audit Update
The Commissioner requests a paper, following the Internal Audit paper from May 2021, which provides an overview of all internal audits, not reported in May 2021, to include all recommendations made from audits undertaken in 2020/2021, whether these recommendations have been accepted, progress against their completion and where not completed outlines the timescales for their completion.
Assistant Chief Fire Officer Robin Porter provided an update.
Audit work was temporarily suspended in Q1 of 2020 due to the first national pandemic lockdown, which meant work on the Plan did not start until August 2020, with the consequent knock-on effect on plan delivery.
It is anticipated that some 2021 audits will have to be carried forward for completion during Q1 of 2021/22 audit year, given a second national lock down in January 2021, coupled with pressures on client staff from extended remote working and on former LGSS support staff who are impacted by changes due to local government reorganisation.
There were 31 agreed recommendations for year 2019/20.
7 x Essential
14 x Important
10 x Standard
30 of the agreed recommendations have been completed and 1 is still ongoing.
There are currently 52 agreed recommendations for year 2020/21
11 x Essential
25 x Important
16 x standard
ACFO Porter confirmed there were 13 audits in the latter period and all but one (payroll) have been received and are reflected in the report provided.
There are now good systems and audit processes in place and the Commissioner recognised the work that has been done in this regard
However, it was noted that compliance in some areas is still not at the standard expected.
In terms of the 2020/2021 recommendations, some of these are due for completion this month, some are shown as overdue (red) but due date is not yet reached, some have expired due dates and need a new date inserting (basically a bit of housekeeping)
Overall though an improved position but with some compliance issues in procurement, asset management and financial control that still need to be resolved.
There was a discussion about Red Kite (the system used to manage assets) which continues to be a challenge with some recorded assets dating back to 2009.
A temporary project manager has been appointed to go through and cleanse.
Assistant Chief Officer Paul Bullen summarised that he is comfortable with buildings, but equipment and IT remain a challenge.
The Avanti system helps for IT but he is looking for a solution for asset management to replace Red Kite.
Four action in Financial controls have been completed since the report was produced and stock checks will be complete by the end of July.
A new 10% Rolling stock check is conducted weekly with an independent person doing it.
There was a discussion about monitoring bills.
Paul Bullen explained that there were issues with LGSS and ERP access.
David McInally will manage when he has access.
NFRS is currently tied into current ERP system. Will exit by April 2023
The Commissioner was assured that Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service had governance processes in place to receive, action and monitor internal audit recommendations and that the overall audit report position was more positive than last year.
The Commissioner made the point that those areas where audit had reported less than satisfactory levels of compliance this year were broadly the same as those the previous year and he set a clear expectation that these areas would demonstrate at least a satisfactory level of compliance next year.
The Commissioner raised the recent fine that the Home Office has received for noncompliance in respect of IR35.
The Commissioner sought assurance that due diligence had been completed in respect of NFRS.
Paul Bullen agreed to check to make sure NFRS was compliant and report back.