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
As part of the budget setting process for 2020/2021, 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 progress made to date on the delivery of the agreed outcomes and measures
ACFO Robin Porter provided an overview and advised that the Service in on track to deliver against the budget conditions letter.
COVID 19 has had some impact on the speed of the delivery of some conditions and will have an impact on the financial conditions to the budget build process for 2021/2022.
Financial discipline has improved although there are still some issues in procurement with Purchase Orders for example.
Procurement; good progress being made but the service needs to get better at accurately specifying requirements; still too many occasions where specifications are being amended/updated.
Commercial training continues and processes are in place to close any gaps identified.
There is a much greater level of scrutiny. For example, anything digital related now goes through the Digital Strategy Board chaired by Paul Bullen and lead by Clare Chambers, Chief Digital Officer
Similarly, anything related to fleet and procurement are now overseen by Lem Freezer, Head of Joint Transport, Logistics, Transport, Travel and Procurement.
Paul Bullen confirmed he is content that he now has the right people in place including the appointment of a Head of Joint Human Resources.
There was a discussion about the recruitment of a Data Scientist that can support both organisations to use data more effectively.
PB confirmed he will have the requirements for what needs ‘pump priming by mid-March.
There was a discussion on the SAN project which has taken longer to implement than originally thought.
PB confirmed he is now confident that SCC who were outsourced to deliver the project have fixed the issue. This has been a more drawn out process than it should have been and will be picked up as part of the lessons learned work that the Chief Digital Officer is now overseeing.
There was a discussion on Response times which have seen a 20% increase in performance since the governance change.
This is really good progress and the Commissioner commended the Chief Officer Team and Fire Fighters for this improvement.
The 10-minute target was set as an ambition. This has now been embedded as BAU and reinforces the ‘Estates plan’ to keep the current stations with only the consolidation of Rothwell and Desborough to be considered.
Since the paper on the budget conditions progress had been submitted, which also set out some of the costs and efficiencies proposals for future year’s budget settlements, some of the element of the report had been superseded by new information from the Home Office.
In response to lobbying by the Commissioner and in recognition of Northamptonshire Fire’s unique circumstances, the Home Office have approved additional one-off funding of £2 million. This equates to £1m to support the revenue budget and £1 million to support reserves.
Unfortunately, whilst this is extremely positive, it does not give NFRS funding certainty for more than one year as an increase in base funding or precept flexibility to £5 for 2021/22 was declined.
The Home Office support does however mean that savings would no longer be needed (apart from funding towards the costs of the Heads of Posts which had already been agreed) and the budget was balanced for 2021/22.
However, HK advised that she is concerned that the budget cannot be balanced in the medium term after 2021/22 and alongside reviewing the capital programme impact, savings plans need to be identified to start to balance the budget further than one year, over the medium term.
Regarding Value for Money requirements, the Commissioner is required to ensure a balanced budget can be achieved, or that there are sufficient reserves to meet the gap over a 3-year period.
The shortfall is exacerbated by the impact of the current capital programme.
Everyone recognised the need to ensure this is included within the 2021/22 Budget Letter as work will need to start on controls and volatility.
HK highlighted that things seem to be moving in the right direction, but these are early days and there is a need to not only implement but also embed given that NCFRA are now in the last year of the stabilisation period.
The Commissioner was largely assured that NFRS either had or were on track to deliver the conditions as set out and agreed between him and Chief Fire Officer for the financial year 202/21.
He was assured that many of the conditions and already been met and particularly in relation to more effective financial management. Some areas still required improvements and these, as such might be reflected again in the forthcoming 2021/22 letter.
A key part of the Commissioners Police and Crime Plan and Fire and Rescue Plan relates to road safety.
The Commissioner requests a report that outlines the activity the NFRS undertake in relation to road safety delivery and interventions.
Lisa Bryan provided an overview
The Fire Service Act 2004 does not require NFRS to deliver road safety education or interventions as part of its core function, but it does have duty to look at community risk and offset those risks.
NFRS is committed to reducing the number if road traffic collisions (RTC’s) in the county and the number of those killed or seriously injured (KSI) as a result.
Approximately 9% of all incidents attended by NFRS are RTC’s
NFRS is now embedded as an active partner of the Northamptonshire Road Safety Alliance (NSRA) which works together to deliver the counties Strategic Road Safety Plan.
Action – PF to write to two new Unitary leaders to put partnership working with NSRA on their radar.
NFRS also delivers road safety education and supports road safety campaigns. These have all been impacted by COVID with access to schools and community events being limited.
The pandemic and subsequent lockdowns have also impacted on the total number of RTC’s in the county with NFRS reporting a 38% reduction in their attendance compared to the previous year.
The Commissioner commended the partnership work that is taking place and would be pleased to see even more work being done in this area.
There was a discussion about the ‘All Incident Breakdown’ (Appendix 1) which showed the amount of time firefighters spend at RTC’s and Fires by month
If RTC’s are 9% and Fires are 32% the Commissioner wanted to know how the remaining 59% of time was utilised.
The Chief Fire Office advised this would include other types of calls including Special Services and False alarms (50%)
The Commissioner asked if there was an opportunity to solve some of the attendance at false alarm calls as this would free up a significant amount of time for more prevention work including legislation to charge when attending False alarms.
The Commissioner was satisfied and assured with the approach taken by NFRS in relation to the delivery of road safety, in particular their partnership approaches via NSRA.
He accepted that there had been some decline in certain activity in the past months as a result of the Covid pandemic, meaning that face to face activity had reduced but was assured that plans existed to restart this at an appropriate time in the future.
There was a discussion on the installation of sprinklers in schools. Currently there is no statutory power to insist they are installed, and developers will of course say they are not required.
The Chief Fire Officer advised that several Fire Services have drafted a letter to send to their MPs and asked if the Commissioner would also be happy to do this as well.
The Commissioner agreed that this was a good idea.
Action – DD draft letter for the Commissioner to send to MP’s
The Chief Fire Officer thanked Nick Alexander and Helen King for their work which resulted in the Home Office £2m settlement. A big team effort.