Additional attendees for the Interoperability Update:
CC Adderley, DCC Nickless, ACC James Andronov, Chief Officer Paul Bullen
Interoperability Update (Fire and Police Joint Meeting)
Following a meeting in March 2020, the commissioner has agreed a programme of work relating to interoperability with the Chief Constable and the chief Fire Officer.
A key ambition of the Commissioner in taking responsibility for the governance of Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service (NFRS) as well as Northamptonshire Police (NP) was to create efficiencies and better service to the public of Northamptonshire.
The Commissioner requested a joint paper and presentation from the two Chief Officers to update on progress in relation to the agreed streams of work.
There is a statutory duty to collaborate for the three (Police, Fire and Ambulance) emergency services. This means that the services should be actively seeking opportunities to work together to deliver more efficient and effective public services.
The Commissioner has set his expectations within the Police and Crime Plan and the Fire and Rescue Plan, to create efficiencies to be reinvested into frontline services.
Key areas of focus include: Enabling Services, shared Estates, Shared Prevention Approaches and Interoperability.
On 13th October, the Commissioner briefed both NP and NFRS to explore the benefits of NFRS supporting missing persons. This was added to the programme for the Interoperability Board.
ACC Andronov provided a report which outlined the progress made in bringing the two organisations closer together from an operational perspective.
Initial discussions have been had and further work is now being done to research across the sectors (e.g. Hampshire) to see how this model is developing.
Joint Community Safety Activity
Work on a Joint Arson Reduction Strategy is almost complete linking arson offences with serious and organised crime.
Tri-Service Emergency Service Volunteers
All three agencies have agreed at the Inter-Ops Board to pursue this joint initiative, in the form of Northamptonshire Emergency Services Volunteer Scheme (NESV).
Early discussions have highlighted how each organisation uses volunteers differently and recognises the benefit of bringing them together.
The impact of Covid-19 and lockdown restrictions have created several challenges, not least in the number of people prepared to volunteer.
Vetting processes and requirements for each organisation are different. NFRS and EMAS volunteers require only DBS checking whilst police volunteers require fuller security checks. This is being worked through.
Joint Command Facility
The Commissioner has set a clear ambition to consider the opportunity for a single Emergency Control Room for Police and Fire in Northamptonshire encompassing all joint management and incident/response coordination.
Both NP and NFRS have decision-points approaching regarding future control room infrastructure.
The Commissioner has been explicit in his vision that at a future date NP and NFRS will share a control room, meaning one building, one set of systems and one set of people. The 2 Chiefs have agreed the exploration of this and the vision in principal subject obviously to affordability and operationally deliverable. Further work now needs to take place to scope this.
At the start of the update the Commissioner made it clear to both organisations that he intends to make a Joint Control Room a Manifesto Commitment, particularly considering the lessons learned from the Grenfell Fire and Manchester Arena Bombing incidents.
The Commissioner was clear that he will not be approving any expenditure on Control Room upgrades or contract renewals until he has seen a business case to achieve this described vision. He was conscious there might be a cost associated with resourcing this work and invited the 2 Chiefs to identify this.
High Risk Missing People
Initial scoping into possibilities has been undertaken which has identified opportunities where NFRS may be able to support NP in searches for missing people.
NFRS already have operational guidance in place to support Very High-Risk missing persons through the use of drones, NILO’s and crews if required.
Opportunities have been identified under ‘The Golden Hour’ – urgent mobilisation of resources to support the immediate phase of a search.
There are also opportunities to support a ‘delayed response’ for substantial or complex searches over a longer timescale (hours into days).
CFO Dovey provided two examples from this weekend where crews in Wellingborough had assisted in the search for high risk missing persons.
The Commissioner commended the work that is going on in the background and encouraged both Chief’s to proactively push on with this work.
Whilst the Commissioner recognised the BAU work he would like to see accelerated delivery of the interoperability agenda. Community safety and vulnerability are real areas of opportunity in his ambition to give a better service to the people of Northamptonshire.
CC Adderley would like to see a matrix for areas that are working well together and some that we would want to explore further to identify the issues of liability and ownership between both Services.
The Commissioner agreed that a document setting out all the tactical and strategic elements and which clarifies any ambiguity around responsibilities would be welcomed. This should also include the Joint Control Room.
Action – SH and JA to produce a template that identifies all the different streams of work that are being undertaken relating to operational interoperability. This work can be progressed through the Interoperability Board rather than Accountability Board.
The Commissioner welcomed the report from both Chiefs. He expressed his gratitude for the progression of the work relating to shared enabling services.
The Commissioner recognised and commended the work that was taking place in the background on the operational interoperability agenda but encouraged the Chief Fire Officer and Chief Constable to progress this work further, given that there are some areas where they have already agreed in principal with him, that they wish to explore.
The Commissioner remains convinced that there are areas in this agenda that provide a real opportunity for the provision of enhanced service to the public. The Commissioner expects work in relation to proposals for a shared Police and Fire Control Room to be developed rapidly.
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.
Draft budget and capital programme
Draft budget and capital programme
The Commissioner requires a report outlining the draft budget requirements and capital investment proposals for Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service for the financial year 2021/22
Nick Alexander presented the budget report.
The Commissioner and Helen King thanked him and the Fire team for all their work in producing the report and preparing the budgets.
The Commissioner was aware that several meetings and discussions had been held with budget holders and with the leadership team.
The report reflected a very stark position for 2021/22 and the medium term and one where a significant shortfall will be faced unless there is an increase to base funding and/or significant reductions to the service budget.
NA highlighted the assumptions and the zero-base approach taken to building the budget.
He confirmed robust discussions with budget managers had taken place and there was good challenge, scrutiny and review with the senior team.
NA and HK confirmed that the budget can be balanced for 2021/22, however, significant savings will need to be made and some of them will have risks and impacts as detailed within the paper.
The Commissioner thanked the Fire team for providing these options.
There was a discussion about the risks and impacts.
HK confirmed that if £5 were available in the precept, the base would increase by circa £930k every year. This would make a significant contribution towards the shortfall.
However, there would also be a shortfall to manage in 2021/22 which would need to be met from the savings.
The Chief Fire Officer, HK and NA discussed the recent communications with the Home Office on the challenges. They confirmed the approach the Home office were seeking to make to MCHLG but advised whilst they can lobby for in year spending, influencing the base or the precept requires MCHLG to approve and action.
The Commissioner recognised that the settlement was not yet available and that the tax base and council tax deficit information was not yet known.
If necessary, HK advised this would be managed to and from reserves.
HK thanked the Fire team for all their hard work in pulling together their capital requirements.
The service now has an informed capital programme which met both the operational needs of the organisation and started to work towards a more resilient ICT platform and some transformation.
HK advised however that at its current level and in its current profile, in her opinion the programme was not affordable, and she also had concerns about deliverability.
In five years, the revenue costs of the programme would be circa £1m on a £25m budget. Whilst increasing revenue contributions to capital by £100K a year would assist, as there are so many short life assets on the programme, the cost of borrowing, even at today’s low interest rates is not sustainable.
Both HK and NA advised that the impact on 21/22 was sustainable but future years needed to be reviewed.
The Chief Fire Officer and the Assistant Chief Fire Officer agreed to review the capital programme and consider whether reprofiling of some of the elements could be undertaken. The programme would then be reworked.
Action DD and SH to review the capital programme and consider whether reprofiling of some of the elements could be undertaken.
The Commissioner advised that after the settlement, he would be going out for the public’s views on the appropriate level of council tax as part of the precept consultation – he is mindful of the impact on the public this year and will be looking very closely at their responses which are awaited in mid/late January 2021.
The Commissioner advised that if this was not addressed in the settlement, then a further letter would need to be written to Ministers and MP’s to increase lobbying of concerns and the potential implications of the shortfalls over the MTFP.
NFRS performance update
NFRS performance update
The Commissioner requires a report of the performance against the measures and metrics contained within the IRMP
The Chief Fire Officer provided a presentation of the balanced scorecard and associated metrics that are used to determine performance and success.
Response times remain positive and average times for all incidents is now well under the 10-minute target; supported by increased pump and on call firefighter availability due to Covid 19.
Overall pump availability remains high and call handling times are all below the average 2 minutes allocated for call handling and assignment of resources.
There was a discussion about the turn out times. This time period represents the point at which fire control has assigned appliances, to the point at which the appliance is mobile.
There was a discussion about the prevention scorecard.
The number of Home Fire Safety checks have reduced to the impact of Covid 19 and this is the same for risk-based inspections.
The Commissioner was reassured that the percentage of risk-based inspections in high risk areas remains high and has not reduced.
The Commissioner welcomed this most recent performance update from the Chief Fire Officer, notably the elements that matter to the public, such as response times and availability of pumps.
While accepting of the fact that the Covid 19 pandemic has positively affected things like availability of retained firefighters the Commissioner took the view that many of the improvements underlying these performance measures were genuine and were sustainable in the longer term.