The minutes from the previous meeting were approved.
Relevant updates on any outstanding actions were provided and the Action Log updated
Minutes and Actions from previous meeting
The minutes from the previous meeting were approved.
Relevant updates on any outstanding actions were provided and the Action Log updated.
Phil Pells, Area Manager and Head of Operations provided an update on the progress in the delivery of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry action plan against set milestones.
20 out of the 24 recommendations were completed in Q2
Four new recommendations have been added as a result of new national guidance or actions increasing the GTI Action Plan to 51 recommendations.
PP advised the local and national Covid response has affected some original milestones and the progress of some recommendations.
There was a discussion about the evacuation of tall buildings.
PP confirmed that new guidance is coming out however there is ongoing work with all owners of residential tall buildings in Northamptonshire to ensure building information is shared with NFRS.
This also includes information about the residents to ensure any additional risk factors are recorded that firefighters can access when on site.
Some of the information has been shared with the Force and EMAS equating to 1700 separate entries adding to STORM. This is all relevant information to keep residents safe.
There was a discussion about spending on Grenfell Tower Infrastructure Grant.
In addition to Command Wallets and their content, NFRS have now taken delivery of Smoke Hoods and Smoke Hood bags.
A safety and educational video is being filmed in relation to the new smoke hoods and how they are used.
There was a discussion about ‘Stay put’ advice, which has not changed. There are only two buildings, which have a full evacuation plan and these have a 24-hour waking watch and are regularly checked by the Protection team. This is following prevention inspections
All high-rise buildings in the county have been inspected at least once and will be revisited by the end of March 2021.
There was a discussion about Home Fire Safety Checks. Fewer visits have been carried out. This is because of the risks associated with Covid and the restrictions in place. It was reiterated however that these have not stopped and a process is in existence for high risk visits.
There was a discussion about Houses of Multiple Occupancy (HMOs)
The Chief Fire Officer confirmed that the primary responsibility for HMOs sits with Environmental Health although NFRS carry out the initial safety inspection when a new HMO is registered. This covers the common parts of the building such as corridors and fire escapes. NFRS do not reinspect once the HMO is open.
HMO’s that are not registered is an area of concern. The Chief Fire Officer is looking at ways that the Protection Grant could be used to provide a training package for crews to go out and identify them as well as re-inspect existing HMOs.
Scott Richards is currently scoping out this work
The Commissioner asked if there was an easy way for the public to refer any HMO concerns.
The Chief Fire Officer confirmed that the public can report via the NFRS website and Police Officers via Fire Control.
There was a discussion about the how the Grenfell Tower Infrastructure Grant received from the Home Office has been committed to date.
HK confirmed she has been sighted on the costs and they are consistent with the proposed allocation as signed off by SM
The Commissioner thanked the Chief Fire Officer and his team for the robust action plan that was in place as a local response to the findings of Phase 1of the Grenfell Tower Fire inquiry.
As with previous reports on this matter he was reassured that the County’s Fire and Rescue service understood the operational implications from the recommendations of this inquiry and had a plan in place that allowed them to respond to these.
The Commissioner did express a concern over the slippage of a small number of actions and activities that were planned to be delivered in Q2 but sought and received reassurance from the Chief Fire Officer; that this was largely because of the COVID 19 pandemic and these will be delivered in Q3.
The Commissioner was assured that at this point, NFRS has done as much as they reasonably could to deliver against these actions and make residents safer. Key to this was that all high-rise buildings had been inspected ahead of the planned schedule and will have been subject to a re-inspection before the end of this current financial year.
Budget Conditions Letter
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 Chief Fire Officer provided an update on the progress Fire have made to this point against the matters agreed in the budget conditions letter for 2020/21.
Overall the service is on track to deliver against the conditions set out in the letter however Covid 19 has had some effect in the speed of delivery of some conditions and will have an impact primarily on the financial conditions set out.
There has been slippage on Interoperability. Next meeting will take place on 25th November having been rescheduled a number of times.
The Commissioner will raise with both the Chief Constable and the Chief Fire Officer in his regular meetings to ensure this area of work receives better focus.
An Interoperability update is to be provided by both Services at the December Accountability Board.
PB provided an update on the ICT infrastructure programme. The SAN project has taken slightly longer to implement than previously thought. Data migration to SAN will be completed by the end of October.
Similarly, the Windows update will not be completed in October as originally anticipated. This is an improving picture but nowhere near where the IT infrastructure/service needs to be.
Extra resource in to support the work has made a massive difference. A Penetration test is due to be complete by end of this month and this will identify any gaps moving forward.
New Chief Technology Officer starts in Enabling Services on 16th November, which will add additional grip and focus in this area.
Some progress is being made in terms of financial management and NA advised this is not yet robust and remains a work in progress. All budget holders will assist in a full zero based review of the 2020/21 budgets against expected need in 2021/22 to ensure that area of demand and efficiency are forecast against current budgets.
Procurement and Internal Controls remain the biggest areas for improvement
There was a discussion about average response time and the commitment of NFRS to achieve an average response time to incidents of no more than 10 minutes by December 2020 onwards.
The Commissioner commended the Service for their work in achieving this and is keen to ensure that it is maintained post Covid.
There was a discussion about a request from East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS) for support should Covid cases continue to rise.
The Commissioner confirmed he is happy to support EMAS as long as this does not impact on NFRS response times.
Assurance Statement – Budget conditions letter
The Commissioner overall was assured and pleased with the progress being made in relation to the matters that had been agreed in the budget conditions letter.
He scrutinised and challenged some aspects and was satisfied with the responses and assurances received.
The Commissioner expressed some concerns that progress on plans to deliver greater operational interoperability between Northamptonshire Police and Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service were not as advanced as he expected. He was conscious that there was a governance structure in place to oversee this, but required some additional reassurance on the speed of progress on this work and requested that a joint paper is brought to this meeting in December 2020.
There were areas, such as IT where further progress was required, however assurance was provided that good progress is being made and a plan existed to progress this work further.
The Commissioner specially noted the excellent progress that had been made on reducing response times to incidents by NFRS.
Mid-term budget outturn
Mid-term budget outturn
This report was presented in two parts: A mid-term budget update and a presentation on the early considerations and scenarios for the Medium Term Financial Plan
The Commissioner requires a mid-year financial outturn report for the financial year 2020/2021 for the period 1st April 2020 to 31st August 2020.
NA gave an overview of the Fire monitoring report to August.
He highlighted the £48K underspend forecast at year end and that a detailed review was being undertaken for Period 6 with budget managers.
HK asked NA about whether he had any areas of concern and he highlighted that whilst compliance with the internal controls was still a work in progress, this would affect the budget holder forecasts and affect the reliance placed on the figures and estimates.
Following a query by HK, SH responded that work was continuing to refine the establishment and wholetime forecasts and there was quite a good understanding developing in this area, which, forms a significant part of the budget.
It was agreed an establishment report will be produced for a future Accountability Board and HK requested that the establishment numbers be aligned to the budgeted and authorised establishment.
NA confirmed this would be undertaken and that any required audit trails completed to support any establishment variations that were required needs to be signed off by the Commissioner.
Assurance Statement – Budget monitoring.
The Commissioner thanked the Chief Fire Officer and finance staff for the paper.
He was reassured that progress was being made to monitor budgets for NFRS and acknowledged that improvements continued but he reiterated the importance of implementing internal audit recommendations and ensuring a robust internal control framework is in place.
This supported the position that the service found itself in a better understanding of this year’s budget than previously, although some areas were still to be understood and works continues towards a robust financial management environment. There remain longer-term concerns over the NFRS budgets and the impact of changes in assumptions on these budgets but the processes that are in place provide reassurance that these implications can be better understood to support informed decision-making.
Early considerations and scenarios for the Medium Term Financial Plan
The Commissioner received a presentation on MTFP scenarios and assumptions from HK, NA and VA to spark discussion and inform the wider financial context and budget process.
It was agreed the Commissioner would write to the Minister setting out the reliance of NCFRA funding on local Council Tax and Business Rates and the potential impact on NCFRA of variations.
Action – HK to draft letter for the Commissioner to review.